Day 15 – The Food of Our Family – Part 5: Cookbooks

This is may be the last post in my recent series – “The Food of Our Family.” You never know though, I may have more to share on the subject!!

My mother had an amazing collection of cookbooks. I think she even used many of them! I also amassed a decent size collection, but as I said in an earlier post, I’m not much of a cook. I am a collector though – hence, the collection of cookbooks I never use. (I actually thinned the herd a few months back leaving the few books I actually touch once in a while!) I think I donated at least 20 to the Goodwill!

This is all that’s left in my cookbook collection.

Mom’s collection of cookbooks seemed like “sacred” items to me. I specifically remember one she used a lot – a cookbook written by Maida Heatter.

The books Mom used most often had a prominent place on a black shelf in the kitchen. A nightstand in its former life, my mother painted it in her “signature” gloss black. This was a hold-over from her “Chinese Black and Red” period when she painted everything in the kitchen using that color scheme!

When I say the shelf had a prominent place I wasn’t kidding. It sat against the short length of wall to the right of the basement door. Our kitchen was not large. Due to the placement of the cookbook shelf, it was nearly impossible to pass through when all the seats at the table were taken!

Caitlin (maybe age 1 1/2?) next to the Cookbook shelf.

Mom’s collection was mostly stored on the stairway leading down from the kitchen to the basement. This was actually pretty convenient. Unless someone was trying to pass you on the stairs as you were attempting to select a book. That could be dangerous! I could write an entire post just about events related to that staircase! (Remember the day Dean fell down the stairs in his chair?)

This rather unattractive view of the basement stairs gives you an idea of where Mom’s cookbooks were stored.
Plus a few other assorted “whatevers!”

Eventually, some of her cookbooks made it to the “nicer” bookshelf in the finshed section of our basement. And there they stayed. Until we held an estate sale in 2012 and her collection was dispersed throughout the family.

Betsy has the Betty Crocker, Julia Child, several by Paula Dean and Martha Stewart among others. Dean has a few. Jeanne has a Betty Crocker, a Good Housekeeping, and many others, including the Andy of Mayberry (why did Mom have that one??.)

But the essential books in Mom’s collection were the BLUE ONION ones.

In the 70s and 80s it was common to cover everyday items with Contact Paper. But books???
Thank you, Jeanne for the pics!
One of the Blue Onion cookbooks
I just love that Mom embossed her books!

I do have one surprise addition to our cookbook collection. Among my grandmother’s things there was an old cookbook. Really old. Like maybe from the 1840s old. I have no idea of the origin. I’m guessing it might have belonged to my great-grandmother, Sophie Weiss Spiegel. I’ve put requests out on a Facebook group, Genealogical Translations for help in translating, to at least try and determine the author. I’m also waitintg on some assistance from Katherine Schober, of SK Translations. (I’m taking her online course “Reading the Old German Handwriting.” It’s really hard!!)

I am hoping to learn more about this handwritten cookbook

I did learn a little bit about the Linzer Torte recipe from Johann Kargel who was kind enough to transcrbe the difficult handwriting. Apparently this recipe is just for the filling.

The German: Ein Pfund Zucker in ein Kaßerol und 3 Seidel Wasser und 2 Lemoni und 1 Pomeranschälen, laß es gut kochen von 4 Lemoni und 1 Pommerantschen Saft hinein, und kochen, 3 Loth aufgelößter Hausen in Wasser auser (ruhen?) es nun bis es kalt wird, seiche es noch einmahl durch durch ein Tuch in ein Geschirr, so ist es fertig. Die Hausen zuletzt hinein.

The English (with notes courtesy of Arnika Kiana): Add one pound of sugar and 900ml of water to a sauce pan with the peel of 2 lemons and one bitter orange. Boil well. Add juice of 4 lemons and one bitter orange. Boil. Add about 50g of dissolved isinglass [to 300ml water and boil until clear] and let cool down. Pass through a cheese cloth into a dish and it is done. Add isinglass last [to the fruit juice]. Isinglass is dried swim bladder of the ‘Hausen’ = a type of sturgeon, a gelling agent but it also clarifies liquids. [My note on “isinglass”: Blecch!] It sounds like Pomeranzenmarmelade (bitter orange marmelade) and it can certainly be used in Linzer Torte. Citrus fruit were extremely expensive, so a Linzer Torte filled with the above concoction would have been of a lot higher status than one filled with red currant or raspberry jam.

There are a few other recipes for Linzer Torte throughout the book. Hopefully, at some point I will be skilled enought to translate them! In the meantime, our family will have to be satisified with Mom’s version of Linzer Cookies, as printed our 2010 “Omi’s Kitchen” cookbook.

I hope you have enjoyed this series of posts. I didn’t plan on focusing on food so much, but that’s the way it goes with family history. The sturdy tree trunk (initial focus) gives way to one branch, then an offshoot, then another… and another. Next thing you know, you’re writing a whole new cookbook!! (Hopefully for Christmas 2020!)

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