Classic Midwestern Cookery
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One of my earliest childhood memories is being taken on a daycare field trip to the beach (Puget Sound in Washington state), and an adult showed us all the different kinds of seaweed. Some was taken back to the daycare, and the next day we had seaweed soup for lunch. It was an extremely 1985 experience overall (a government-subsidized daycare had a cook??). I’m glad that individuals are more sensitive now about taking bits of nature from where they grow, but it seems like some corporations might be conflating some issues and actually going too hard into the burgeoning farmed-seaweed industry. Just because it’s ocean acres, rather than land acres, doesn’t mean you can claim it.
I aspire to this level of produce knowledge. Flash cards it is.
A Classic Cookbook With Ambitious Roots
By Sheila Julson
A staple in my family’s kitchen has always been the stained, clothbound 1965 edition of “The Settlement Cook Book,”which my mother received as a wedding shower gift in 1969. The copy still sits on her shelf, its cover now held in place by a vertical strip of clear carton tape.
The title page suggests that the book is “The way to a man’s heart,” leading today’s readers to anticipate antiquated “good housewifery” tips among the recipe collection. There is indeed a housekeeping guide, but the preface of “The Settlement Cook Book” reveals progressive origins that began in my hometown of Milwaukee.
A neighborhood house called The Settlement was a resource center to help European immigrants assimilate to American life. (Something considered extremely important at the turn of the last century.) The Settlement’s cooking classes were led by Elizabeth “Lizzie” Black Kander, a volunteer and social reformer. She came up with the idea of printing recipes into a pamphlet for her charges, rather than having them laboriously copy recipes from the blackboard.
Volunteers on The Settlement Ladies’ Committee supported the effort, but the men of The Settlement board scoffed at the idea of spending money — $18 — on such a project. Undaunted, Kander and her fellow volunteers, along with a supportive local printer, solicited advertisements to defray the costs.
Kander and her fellow volunteers also tested every recipe; a practice believed to be uncommon at the time. In April 1901, the first copies of “The Way to a Man’s Heart...The Settlement Cook Book” rolled off the presses. Extra copies not used at The Settlement were sold at Boston Store in Milwaukee for 50 cents each, with proceeds going to fund Settlement operations.
The 1965 edition is a mix of approachable recipes for everything from pancakes to pea soup. There are recipes that likely harken back to the original days of The Settlement Cook Book; think “Steamed Raisin Puff” or prepared wild game. Still, even more elaborate dishes like “French Cheese Puff” call for common ingredients like breadcrumbs, butter, and eggs.
As a vegetarian, I was drawn to a recipe for a pea and nut-based loaf, simply called “Vegetarian Loaf.” Everything old is new again, as there were sections dedicated to low cholesterol and wheat-free recipes. The “Invalid Cookery” section lists foods for those on liquid or soft diets, noting that oatmeal gruel or “milk punch” should be served “in the most pleasing manner possible.”
“The Settlement Cook Book” printed 34 editions that sold more than 2 million copies. The final, 43rd edition came out in 1991, but plenty of food-stained, taped-up copies live on in many kitchens.
The Settlement Cook Book, c. 1965
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I love learning about old cookbooks, especially one that was produced right here in Wisconsin. So cool!