Recently, I decided to go through all those recipes that I’ve collected over the years. Which one’s worked, which one’s didn’t and toss the ones I know I’ll never make.
As I was sorting, I came across an old church cookbook from 1948, printed by the Progressive Print Shop, Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. Some of the pages are so well loved that they’ve come loose from the spiral binding. They’re stained, torn with faded, hand-written notes in the margins. And there isn’t a low fat entry in the whole book.
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon tea
2 whole cloves
Pour fresh boiling water over tea and cloves. Let stand two minutes. Strain, cool, add ice and more water if desired. Sweeten to taste. Lime or lemon juice makes a more snappy drink.
I’ve never heard of putting cloves in tea. But what a great added tidbit to add to a character. Think of the backstory. A young man or woman who adds cloves to their tea because their mother or grandmother did. Maybe granny/nanna/mema etc. raised them because of some tragedy or odd circumstances. What if their father went away to seek his fortune and never returned?
Or what if the main character receives their grandmother’s recipe book and in it they find something that changes their life? You get the idea.
I found recipes for cranberry pie, raisin pie, and something called bridge pie. I’m guessing the last one refers to the game and not something you could use to span a river.
All the entries in this old book are interesting. It’s a glimpse into the 1940’s. How they ate and, if you look closely, you can glean a life style that is far removed from today’s. Raw eggs in fillings, and even a recipe for hand lotion. It calls for things I bet you can only get on the internet these days. Gum tragecauth, carolic acid, bay rum, and bergamont oil. Interesting.
One unexpected treat was the discovery of some of my mother’s great cookie recipes that I thought were lost to moving and time. I found she marked those she liked with an “X”.
When you get to the back of this 100-page publication you come to the ads. “Galles, Redwood Falls, Exclusively Ladies’ Ready-to-wear.” No address, no phone number, just the town name. Everyone probably knew where it was so there was no need for all that pesky information. One of my favorites is: “Norge Home appliances for better living, The Music Store Tel. 453.” Yes, that’s the whole phone number. In all the ads, I only came across one phone number that had more than three numbers. But the one that intrigued me was the last one in the book. “Protect your feet, they are your main support, Johnson’s shoe store, free x-ray service.” Wow, really? Free x-ray in a shoe store.
I’m inspired to look for cookbooks published in the era in which I plan to write. I have an old Whole Earth cookbook from the early 1970’s that could be very interesting. Next time I visit an antique shop, I’m going to seek out the cookbooks. Who knows what treasures lurk there.
Have you found inspiration in unlikely places?