I was very lucky early in life to have a family that instilled a love of reading in me. I enjoy sitting with a cup of tea and reading the daily newspaper. I read books and magazines, anything from the Ohio Holstein News to Oprah to Sports Illustrated. Sometimes late at night when I am having trouble sleeping, I read. Along with the many different things I enjoy reading is cookbooks. Over the years I have collected many of them, the best ones are the ones sold by church groups or farm organizations. They always contain recipes for comfort food! I have supplements put out at the holidays by some of the newspapers, pages from the Farm and Dairy and recipe boxes, Christmas tins and notebooks filled with recipes that I have cut out. For some reason, more of them are for cake, pies, candy and cookies than for vegetables, soups and meats! I am still looking for that recipe that uses green beans but tastes like pecan pie!
One of the many cookbooks I own is a copy of the Gold Medal Flour Cookbook published by Washburn-Crosby Company, Minneapolis, Minn., and copyrighted in 1908, 105 years ago. Several years ago I bought a box of kitchen wares at a public auction and the cookbook was at the bottom of the box. I have no idea whose sale it was. The cookbook contains several recipes written on paper, one written on a piece of a brown paper bag, and tucked into the book. Some of them have people's names on them but I do not know any of them. Reading this cookbook is very interesting, and it is filled with recipes and information.
It has a "Table of Measure" that includes the following: A speck makes one quarter saltspoon; four saltspoons make one teaspoon. Two gills make one cup. One wine glass makes one-half gill. Ten eggs, average size, make one pound. Five nutmeg make one ounce. One quart less one gill, sifted patent flour makes one pound. And more!
Under "Table of Proportions:" One quart of flour requires one pint of butter or butter and lard mixed for pastry. A spoon means that the material should lie as much above the edge of the spoon as the bowl sinks below it. A heaping teaspoon means that the material should be twice as high above the edge of the spoon as the bowl sinks below it. A level teaspoon should hold sixty drops of water. A speck is what can be placed within a quarter inch square surface. It lists the time for baking, the time for cooking summer vegetables, the time for winter vegetables and the time for meat.
Under the section listed as "Soups" it says: "The making of stock calls for no more than the ordinary amount of skill and attention and it should not be thought either a mystery or a trouble." Under Mark Twain's recipe for "Mark Twain's Beef Steak," he is quoted as saying, "They have beefsteaks in Europe, but they don't know how to cook it. Neither will they cut it right. It comes on the table in a small, round pewter platter; it is the size and shape of a man's hand with the thumb and fingers cut off. It is a little overdone. It is rather dry, it tastes perfectly insipid, it arouses no enthusiasm." In the meat section, there were many recipes for beef or ox tongue: Braised Tongue, Baked Tongue, Escalloped Tongue, Tongue in Jelly, and Fillets of Tongue. There were several recipes for "Sweetbreads" but after reading which part of the calf or lamb they come from I don't think they will be on my menu! It is obvious that in those days every part of the animal was used, nothing was wasted.
The following was written under "Vegetables:" If the housekeeper who is so tired of the same old way of preparing vegetables would only study the art of cooking she need never want for variety." Some of the vegetable recipes included Jerusalem Artichokes, Asparagus in Ambush, Lentil Sarmas, Potatoes Lyonnaise and Oyster Plant. In this day and age we are encouraged to eat healthy by eating more vegetables, fruits, and berries. Personally, I like my berries between two pie crusts! However, we are so lucky to have fresh fruits, vegetables and berries available at our local grocery store every day. And, if we don't butcher our own, there is fresh meat of every kind.
An advertisement in the cookbook shows a lovely lady sitting in a chair, obviously dreaming, with a sack of Gold Medal Flour beside her. The advertisement is titled "Let Dreams Come True" and this is written below, "It's worry -- not work -- that tries one's soul, and it's poor bread, a poor table, and poor living that adds to the wife's trials and nags the patient husband. Why not start housekeeping right, you who are far-sighted and learn the wisdom of utilizing at once every possible means for lightening and brightening your housekeeping duties? Gold Medal flour will make the baking a success. Let's have it a success in your home from the very beginning. Use Washburn-Crosby's Gold Medal flour." The cost of the cookbook was 10 cents.