This year I resolved to try recipes from cookbooks I find at yard sales.
Last summer, I chuckled when I read the title, “The Non-Chew Cookbook.” I bought the cookbook for that oxymoron of a title. Then I read the foreword and quit laughing. The inability to chew presents a serious nutritional problem for folks with facial deformities. They need food that is not “a burden to chew or swallow,” which means a liquid or soft food diet or easily digested foods. That cookbook aims to expand diets beyond the puddings and drinks my uncle had after he broke his jaw, and the doctor wired it shut.
During that time, after a holiday feast, his pastor rhetorically asked, “Did any of you leave the table hungry?”
My uncle raised his hand, grinned and silently nodded his head, “Yes.”
Uncle would have enjoyed the cookbook’s soups and slushies. I think I might try a Spaghetti Casserole. Everything solid in that and every other recipe is “finely chopped” whether it is a seafood casserole or ham with sweet potatoes.
I smile at the memories when I pick up “Best Recipes: from the Backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans and Jars.” One of the first recipes I tried came from Quaker Oats: Oatmeal cookies. They tasted exactly like the cookies Grandma made us. When we visited, she took a small log of cookie dough out of her refrigerator, peeled off a wrapping of waxed paper, sliced off thick disks and plopped them on her cookie sheet. Pure ambrosia to me, the Cookie Monster’s best friend.
Recently I found “Living off the Land: Arkansas Style” from the 4-H Shooting Sports Club in Howard County. I saw familiar fish and duck dishes. I had heard of Roasted Coon from a woman I interviewed years ago. I had never even thought about Roasted Bear. That recipe reads like Beef Burgundy. My sister introduced me to chili with bear meat. No one has ever offered me armadillo barbecued or smothered in vegetables and gravy. Maybe because the only dead armadillo around here are roadkill.
The cookbook includes diagrams for skinning any critter. Details from this 25 year old book for cleaning and preparing a turtle for soup would not please PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), so I won’t repeat the instructions. Having processed beef and poultry with my family, I already know the basic techniques.
Popular dishes have shifted through the years. Shortly after someone figured out how to ship bananas to keep them fresh, chefs began experimenting with the fruit. Ham stuffed with bananas made its debut and faded. I have no plans to try that recipe.
Olive Garden never offers the variety in pastas that Heinz 57 did in the 1930s. Nutritious meals for children included noodles with prunes, spinach, liver or tongue. Try tempting your favorite four-year-old with that in place of today’s ubiquitous mac-n-cheese.
Barbara Swell, the author of “Mama’s in the Kitchen,” collected recipes by the decades from 1900-1950. She said, “it was difficult to find recipes from the 1920s that people would actually prepare today.” Then she found a cookbook by Dorothy Malone and declared, “just about every (recipe) in this book was worth making. The only thing you will have to go out and get is a varied selection of liquors.” Rum enhanced the Raisin and Nut Stuffed Apples, the Brandied Bananas and the Cantaloupe that Left You Smiling.
No time to make those. I will be too busy testing recipes from “The Cake Doctor.” From what I have read so far, I won’t be needing any rum.