Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Crumbling Pages, Crusty Popovers—1915ish

A page of a crumbling notebook filled with my grandmother's handwritten recipes. The notebook has a printed copyright date of 1915 in the front, but I'm not sure how long it would have taken to fill it. I scanned this and left the image quite large. If you click on it your should be able to read it quite well. Well most of it, I can't make it all out as you'll read below. All photos in the post are clickable to make larger. I'm always amazed at the details that the primitive box cameras captured and the condition that the negatives remained in for close to 100 years.

R E M E M B R A N C E — Boy did my grandmother love to cook! I entered the 'scene' quite late in her life, and she was pretty sick most of the time I knew her, but from all the stories I heard, and from my own limited experience, she could cook with the best of 'em. As it was, at the tender age of 5 or 6 she began teaching me to read recipes and to cut vegetables and measure ingredients. To this day I use her beat-up old aluminum measuring cup every time I need to measure. I've had really nice cooking utensils come and go, but I'd be truly saddened if I lost that measuring cup or her equally old brass pie crust serated cutter/crimper. I must have more than 1,000 recipes either handwritten, or typed, or cut out from newspapers and magazines, in several books and containers that she collected. I also have really old cookbooks from various companies, like Gold Medal Flour, that she must have sent away for. I think a large part of her camaraderie with friends revolved around passing around recipes and comparing cooking notes. I have no idea what I'll do with them all, but I'm thinking of making a large, highly-detailed piece of art with them. Most are becoming illegible due to the fading of ink, and the drying out of the paper, but they'd stay in their current condition 'forever' under several coats of polyurethane.

This fading and crumbling ruled notebook, dated 1915,  dates to the time of my grandmother's first marriage in late 1916. I like to think of her driving to friends homes and sitting down to coffee and copying old family recipes of theirs, in preparation for her upcoming marriage. My grandmother never knew her real mother, and both of her stepmothers died by 1910 when she was 15. From what I remember of her, I'm sure she wanted to do everything right, to be able to cook anything for her future husband, to be the best mother she could be for any children she might have. 

Nanny's Model T Ford parked in front of a friend's house (I always called my grandmother Nanny). Maybe she was inside writing down these very recipes in this entry.

Life isn't fair, we all know that, and while my grandmother was blessed by becoming pregnant a few months after she was married, her husband, my mother's father, died within 6 months of the marriage in a diving accident. He was a bridge engineer and was diving to inspect the pilings when something happened and he drowned. My mother ended up never knowing her father and my grandmother was a widow at 22 with a baby. And not much family left either. She not only refused to let it get her down, she eventually flourished, and my mother flourished, although I'm sure that deep down, both women were inexorably hurt by their losses. 

I also have a handwritten little notebook of my grandmother's with her 'Budgetary Needs' written throughout with categories of day, week and month. The majority of the items are household and food in nature, or car expenses for the Model T she had bought herself in 1915, with items for 'Veronny' my mother's nickname, the second most listed. Only rarely were items like 'new dress' or 'dressy heels' or any other items for the young mother listed, so I know it wasn't easy for her. That would change in 1924 when she married her second husband, and as is the case in this blog, that will be another entry. : ) I'll just say now that her second husband, whose last name is my middle name, was a peach and very good for her. He adopted my mom right away, and my grandmother could buy pretty much anything she wanted from that point on. Well, until Black Friday, in October of '29, but that is another story too. The Great Depression hit everybody and, skipping ahead, by the age of 40 my grandmother would be widowed for the second time, this time with two daughters, Hoohoo (née Gloria) having been born in 1925.


Nanny in the driver's seat of her little Model T Runabout during this period. It appears as if the spare tire had been used and not replaced, and the other tires look none-too great either. Stretching funds to make a life for herself and her little daughter, my mother, wasn't easy. She still found time to photograph portraits of her friends and to document her life in ways that are so special to me now. I have that steering wheel on my wall, and one of the two gas cowl lights at the base of the windshields is on the table in front of me as I type this. The windshields themselves are in the attic, waiting for me to do something creative with them. I also have several of the headlamps lenses, which I sometimes use as coasters.

A serious pose under the roughly-hewn cedar pergola....


... and a much more light-hearted pose in the back yard.

Little "Veronny" in 1921, short for Veronica, always came first in my grandmother's life. Never knowing her father who died before she was born, my mother always had nice, freshly pressed (starched?) dresses in the many photos I have of her, probably hand-made by her mother, and cute shoes and socks. I have a small notebook that listed the single mom's expenses and my mother's needs were always put in front of her own. I think perhaps this dress was meant for her to grow into a little bit, lol.  

I've scanned "Pop Overs" to post here, and at the bottom of the page is a recipe for a "1 egg Cake" although I can't really make out all the ingredients due to the condition of the page. I've never made popovers myself, but maybe I should try. I certainly enjoy eating them!

According to the recipe I scanned:

Pop Overs
2 eggs well beaten
2 even Tspoon sugar to be put in eggs
1 cup of flour
6 Tspoon of melted butter (Edit: I think it says 6, the page is ripped right through the number. Does this sound right?)
1/2 Tspoon salt
Mix all together and beat with egg beater.
3/4 cup of milk (Edit: This is the order where the milk is printed on the original, but maybe you mix it with the rest of the ingredients and then beat with the egg beater?)
Bake in hot oven 24 minutes.

1 Egg Cake
1 Tablespoon of butter. 
1 Tspoon B. powder
1 scant cup of sugar
vanilla
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup ( Edit: Can't read this word. Some sort of raisins?)
Bake 20 minutes to 1/2 hour

Frosting
2 Tbs cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
(Edit: I can't read the rest of the words for this recipe.)

14 comments:

  1. Your blog caused me to go to my bookshelf and pull out my Grandmother's handwritten recipe book. Actually written in a small ledger with printed numbered pages, the inside cover reads: Addie B. Schanel, El Monte, California, June 13, 1913

    Maybe when the weather turns cooler you would like to try the Boston Brown Bread recipe:
    1 cup sugar
    1 cup molasses [Brer Rabbit molasses]
    2 eggs
    1 pint sour milk
    2 teaspoons soda
    small piece of butter - enough graham flour to make stiff batter. Steam.

    There is not one baking time or temperature mentioned in any of these recipes. I guess in those days temperature was an unknown so everything was accomplished using their senses.

    We could almost call these books, ingredient books, so much was left for you to figure out on your own.

    ReplyDelete
  2. thank you! I remember brown bread cooking in a coffee tin somehow. I'll have to do some more research on it. I don't think you really could pick a temperature on those old ovens our grandmother's used. The recipe I printed just says 'hot' oven.

    I've always thought it would be a cool idea to make a modern cookbook with old recipes, and to photoshop them onto each page, so that even if you don't have your gramma's handwritten recipes, you could buy a book that looked like them. I've even thought that you could include a little sidebar for each recipe, or groups of recipes, to update them with the ingredients we have available in our modern grocery stores. I haven't generated any interest at the publisher yet. It would only appeal to a limited audience, but I might pitch it again one of these days.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Casey,if you do it and need additional recipes I will be happy to donate my Grandmother's to you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Casey, that's a great cook book idea - keep pitching it ! Not only would I like to buy it, I'd love to co-author it. I did a family dinner once based on the menu offered on the Titanic - it was great fun !

    ReplyDelete
  5. that would be great! I think it would have 'maximum' appeal to have recipes from all over the country, rather than just say New England. What people came up with in California could be totally different than what my grandmother did in Connecticut. I"ll keep it in mind!

    ReplyDelete
  6. PX: what a great idea for a dinner party! i'll definitely keep you in mind for the project if it ever gets any farther. A co-author would be great. It's a daunting task to gather the recipes, write the updating sidebars and edit everything together in a cohesive way. The less work the editors at the publisher would have to do, work = time = money, the more likely it would be greenlighted. I already have a big plus in my column because I would do the design and production, a HUGE savings for them. I think the next committee meeting is October/November for books to be produced in late 2011-12.

    ReplyDelete
  7. BOY AFTER READING ALL THIS WONDERFUL STUFF THIS MORNINGI NEED TO GO TAKE A NAP AND IT'S NOT EVEN NOON. I LOVED EVERY WORD. I'M SO GLAD I CLICK ON YOUR NAME ON THE ROSS BLOG. I'M NOW BACK TO MY OLD GRANNY SELF ON HERE. JUST ENJOYING THE FUN. CONT IN A FEW MINUTES
    GRANNY

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm glad I went to Ross's blog too!

    And I DO go on and on and on sometimes, hahaha.

    Thanks for reading!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I DON'T GO THERE ANYMORE. I HAD A REAL BAD EXPERIENCE. ALL THREE SIDES WERE WRONG. I GOT CAUGHT UP IN THE MIDDLE AND GOT PUSH TO THE WALL.I'M VERY SORRY FOR MY PART. I MADE SOME WONDERFUL FRIENDS BOTH GAY AND STRAIGHT. I LOVE ALL.I'VE HAD GAY FRIENDS IN MY LIFE. ONE THAT ACTUALLY KILLED HIMSELF BECAUSE BACK IN THE DAY IT WAS VERY HARD JUST TO BE WHO GOD MADE YOU.SAD, BUT TRUE.ONE OF MY FAVORITE COUSIN IS GAY. A STORY THERE ALSO. I THINK IT'S GETTING SO MUCH EASIER. STILL A LONG ROAD AHEAD. ALL I CAN DO IS BE ME. THE ROSS BLOG TAUGHT ME SO MUCH. WE HAVE GOOD AND BAD IN ALL WALKS OF LIFE. WE EVEN SAY HURTFUL THINGS WE CAN BE ASHAME OF BUT HOPEFULLY IN TIME WORDS CAN BE FORGIVEN.EVEN I GOT PUSH TO THE WALL.
    I REALLY LOVE ROSS AND ENJOY EVERYTHING HE DOES. HE IS ONE FUNNY GUY. HE'S CLIMBING THE LADDER FAST AND I FOR ONE AM VERY HAPPY FOR HIM.
    GRANNY

    ReplyDelete
  10. THERE'S A VERSE IN MY BIBLE, CAST THE FIRST STONE IF YOUR WITHOUT SIN. I CAN'T CASE THAT STONE.
    GRANNY

    ReplyDelete
  11. So fun to look at your pictures and hear your memories. It is interesting the difference in different parts of the U.S. My family was definitely more "settler" type people I guess you would say. Farmers, laborers...making do and quite poor I think. They didn't have cars (was horse and buggy mostly) and no one had cameras (we have very very few pictures.) I am fascinated by the stories and by the comparisons I make to my own family history as I read them...Such as my grandma washing the wood floors with lye to whiten them and using the underside of advertising to "wallpaper" the walls. She was an immaculate housekeeper and a magician at the stove and oven making wonderful things out of any eggs and milk she could get...I am getting more and more eager to go treasure hunting through my storage and my folk's house/basement/upstairs, etc etc..
    Oh, and I have a 1 egg cake recipe that I still use...will have to compare (it was gma's recipe..am curious if they are similar..
    mare

    ReplyDelete
  12. Mare: i enjoy hearing about your history too. I think the more we learn about everyone's differences the more we'll learn about our similarities. No matter where we all came from, we're HERE now. Can you imagine either of our grandmother's being able to communicate at the touch of a keyboard? I have postcards that were sent to relatives 10 miles away, rather than visiting in person because it would have been difficult to get there and back. One of my grandfather's sisters died of the Spanish Flu in 1918, which I'm sure affected your part of the country too.

    I'd love to read your 1 egg cake recipe too!

    ReplyDelete