Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Amazing Grange

When I started this blog, I didn't have that many small, local cookbooks because they are kind of boring to look at. They tend not to have pictures, and I initially mostly loved old cookbooks for the mesmerizingly odd pictures that reminded me of my other favorite pastime-- watching horror movies. Now more than two years in (!) to this endeavor, I'm more drawn to the recipes. They tell me what people in a specific time and place liked and expected and could afford... (The answer is mostly "things covered in canned cream soup and/or gelatin," but the things they covered varied!) The recipes show how people talked and how skilled at cooking they expected the audience to be. The sociology minor in me is just fascinated by all that shit and hopes that at least some of you are too. This is the long way of saying that I find myself picking up way more little regional fundraiser cookbooks and regretting the ones I used to ignore because I preferred the more professional, full-color picture cookbooks.

Today we're going to look at another no-frills regional book: Ohio State Grange Cook Book was compiled by the members of the Ohio State Grange Home Economics Committee. (I have the 22nd edition, October, 1968).

I am not sure what the previous owner had stacked on this thing, but the cover is so boring, it's not like it matters that it's messed up. This is totally a book I would have ignored a few years ago.

And I would have missed out on a lot. I'm just giving a sampling today, but there are TONS of weird little recipes that will probably find their way into later posts too.

One thing that struck me about the recipes is how much the writers really expect the readers to know or infer about how to make this stuff. The directions are, shall we say, minimal. How can you make a Heavenly Pie?

Well, you put it in a shell with cream and chopped nuts on top. How you're supposed to put the bananas, sugar, egg whites, and flavorings in that shell is left entirely to your judgment. Slice the bananas on the pie shell, whip the whites with sugar and flavorings, and put that on top of the bananas? Mash the bananas and fold them into the whipped egg whites? Am I on the right track assuming the whites are supposed to be whipped? Mrs. R. D. Sickafoose would probably consider me an idiot for having all these questions. She's actually being pretty specific.

Mrs. N. A. Mealy's Bread Sponge Cake starts with "1 c. sponge." Apparently she's assuming readers are smart enough to know what goes into a sponge starter and how to make it (and that we're not so dumb we'll rip up a few cleaning sponges into a measuring cup). The totality of her instructions is "Let rise 3 hours." What kind of a pan? How long should we bake it? At what temperature? If we have to ask, we're apparently hopeless. At least she gave directions.

Brown Sugar Cake is just one representative of the many that have no instructions whatsoever. Mrs. Frank Evel wasn't the only one who thought all cooks needed was a list of ingredients and they should be able to figure out the rest.

A lot of the recipes amuse me not because they are bad or lack instructions, but because they have crazy names. I really wonder about this recipe title: 

Cocanes? I'm sure the butter cookies are good, but are they really that addictive?  I wondered if I was missing something-- if maybe this was a foreign word because these cookies were a specialty of some little European town and the Birds Run Grange was honoring the members' heritage, but the only reference I found that had any discussion of the cookie's history went straight back to this recipe. Apparently, the Guernsey County Grange heard people really liked cocaine and decided "Cocane" was the perfect name for a cookie.

The title for this next recipe initially seems pretty normal, but as you think about it and read the other ingredients, it suddenly seems very wrong:

Mangoes don't seem especially appropriate for stuffing since there's no real cavity unless you manage to pit them very carefully, and even if you did, why would you stuff them with what amounts to meatloaf and bake them in tomato sauce? I would have been totally perplexed by this one a few weeks ago, but thanks to a Mid-Century Menu post, I found out that some Midwestern cooks used "mango" to mean green pepper. If you know the local dialect, suddenly the recipe makes much more sense.

The name of this last recipe made me laugh out loud:

Yes, the recipe itself sounds kind of odd. The mix of cream cheese, eggs, and tomato soup is apparently a dip when it's hot and a spread when it's cold. I love cream cheese, but I'm not so sure I'd be down with Ring Tim Ditty. Why ruin good cream cheese with canned tomato soup?

The title is definitely the best part. It sounds dirty because my mind keeps switching the first letters on the last two words, and then it sounds like some kind of a furtive rural sex act. (Hey, let's go out behind the barn and ring dem titties!)

Happy Wednesday! Just steer clear of the barn unless you like ringin' dem titties, in which case, carry on.


  1. I'm really intrigued by Rum Tim Ditty. There's no record of it on the inter webs, must be a an old timey regional dish :D

    1. That's one of the cool things about regional cookbooks. They capture things that would be lost otherwise.