Sunday, November 21, 2010

Order of the Eastern Star 1923 Cookbook

Dusty D was tipped off to the existence of this cookbook by a posting on the YCVB's Facebook page. I found a copy online and read it with great interest. DD loves to cook and loves learning about culinary history. I definitely want to know what people were cooking and eating in 1923, the year this cookbook was published by the OES, the ladies' auxiliary to the local Masons.

Here are DD's observations about the food in the cookbook:

*What is most notable is the complete absence of any foreign cuisines. No Mexican, no Italian or French, nothing. There are only 5 dishes that are even vaguely foreign, and even those have been Americanized: chop suey, "American chop suey," chili con carne, Spanish rice, and something called "Indian salad," a fruit salad containing coconut.

*In line with that, another glaring lack in the cookbook is an absolute lack of French or Italian herbs. No oregano, no thyme, no basil, no bay leaves--nothing at all. The food sounds relatively bland compared to the kind of food I like to cook. Salt, pepper, cayenne, and paprika are the only spices I see.

*The section that could be copied and placed in a modern cookbook is "Cookies."

*The section that is most different from a modern cookbook is "Meats." We are used to eating tacos, nachos, stir-fries, and other everyday meat dishes borrowed from other cuisines. Every dish in this section is strictly old-time American. There are a lot of veal recipes and a couple of oyster ones too...though the era of oysters was in decline by this time.

*There are a lot of escalloped dishes, which take some time to bake. Just a small reminder that most women spent all day at home and could afford the time.

*Vegetable preparation sounds pretty bland, and most of them are boiled or baked.

*The ONLY processed foods mentioned in the whole book are canned vegetables, cream cheese, Worchester sauce and gelatin (in my casual survey). Every cake in the extensive cake section is made from scratch.

*Doughnuts were made at home.

*The oldest recipe in the book is for the medieval recipe for mincemeat pie, which in this book is called "pork cake" in 2 separate recipes and "mincemeat in a third.

*There's a section for conserves/jams and for confectionery.

*There is NO pasta--except spaghetti noodles and macaroni. No others.

*There is NO pizza. My husband (mid-40s) remarked that he had once overheard people of his parents' generation (late 70s) discussing pizza as if it had been a novel and wild new thing in the 1960s.

*There's a section for "Invalid Cooking." In the first recipe, the minced beef is simmered "until the strength is quite extracted from the beef."

Pretty interesting! Thank you, OES ladies!


Russ said...

WOW! That hyper-link "I found a copy online" took me to a site with scads of old cookbooks. (You knew that). I can't believe these are all down-loadable in PDF format!! Thanks! I down-loaded three and did a quick scan. One had a guide for checking the oven to see if it was the right temperature for baking bread. . .You need to be only able to hold your bare arm in the oven for half a minute. Then, the temp is about right. . . Wish this was the only problem to overcome when making homemade bread. Mine never comes out quite right. Thanks, Russ

Dusty D said...

Mine never quite does either. :) Aren't those fun? And packed with cultural information. It's also a great resource for me as a writer..."John sauntered down Huron one autumn day in 1915, hoping his wife had made some pizza..." ---NOPE! (based on this single example, anyways; I would actually double-check that IRL. Anyways.)