Boxing Day 2020-Bookish Cooking

Well Christmas day is truly over here in Tasmania until next year. I have spent the morning having a couple of boiled eggs, toast and watching an old series of The Great British Bake Off. I haven’t seen all of them so nice to watch them and the old ones I have seen my memory is such I don’t remember who won so it is all new again.

Today they were featuring recipes from the Victorian Era. Series 5 or 6, can’t remember. They did a quick historical segment on Mrs Beeton and her cookbooks from the 1800s (of which she only ever cooked one recipe) that has been in print for more than 150 years. Evidently (which I did not know) she was brought into her husband’s publishing arena as a new 21 year old bride and was asked to do a column. She could not bake but she did publish a column on how to make a particular type of cake (sponge I think) and she forgot the flour so of course it was a flop. She did print a recipe of hers, the one and only accordng to Mrs Beeton’s biographer on this program, called Mrs Beeton’s Useful Soup for Benevolent Times. Recipe here. Evidently she was very good at editing so instead of creating recipes she researched old recipes she could find previously to her lifetime and published them. A quite resourceful woman it seems.

That got me thinking about an old cookbook my aunt gave me years ago before she died. It was a cookbook she got from her mother (my father’s mother) and it actually belonged to my mother’s grandmother (my great grandmother). There are recipes in it handwritten in the margins and inside covers from both paternal and maternal grandmothers. The book is a first edition published in 1913. It is called Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners by Mrs. Elizabeth O. Hiller. The price was $1.00 US and was marketed by the Cottelene company. Cottolene was a shortening or lard substitute.

Mrs. Hiller actually has a Wikipedia page and it states, Elizabeth O. Hiller (circa 1856 – August 14, 1941) was a prominent early twentieth-century American author of cookbooks and a professor of culinary arts. You can see all of her published books here.

The introduction of the book states: “Years ago nothing but butter or lard were used for shortening and frying: today the visible supply of these two products is insufficient to supply the demand, taking into consideration the amount of butter required for table use. Furthermore, as the demand increased it out grew the supply of butter and lard, with the result that prices were materially advanced; and, incidentally, the quality has been lowered. Naturally, under such conditions scores of substitutes have been offered as shortening and frying mediums- some meritorious, but mostly inferior” (introduction, 1913).

Grandma Schavey’s Prune Cake
This recipe is on the back cover of the book. I notice all writing was in pencil and the books is covered in stains so was obviously used a lot.

It continues on, discussing the merits of this product. Americans now use the vegetable shortening Crisco quite a bit while baking or frying. When I moved to Australia in 1988, I had a difficult time not having access to Crisco as Americans regularly used. Southern Fried Chicken is ONLY excellent when fried in Crisco which is a vegetable shortening with the more solid consistency of lard. It is also used to rub onto baking pans of cakes and pies so the batter doesn’t stick. Everyone here seems to use a baking paper. I was not used to that. They also used a slab of butter or margarine to grease their pans.

Michigan is a big corn growing state. This recipe from the Detroit newspaper for Corn Oysters was tucked into the book. 1925.

Anyway- I digress. I don’t have many items from my grandmothers, both of whom I loved dearly and I never knew my great grandmother. I do treasure this book though I am unlikely to ever cook one of these full recipes for Sunday dinner as they are loaded with lard (or Cottolene) and salt, and the recipes are pages long. I thought I would share this today in view of holiday spirit and a coming new year. I could do a Julie and Julia project such as was the film when a character named Julie spends one year cooking her way through Julia Child’s French Cookbook. This also gives me a way here to document this lovely old book in our current times. I do love looking through it and perhaps could try one or two vegetable dishes or cakes or pies. (By the way I now have a small can of Crisco I get from USA in Melbourne and I also have baking paper).

I had to share this advertisement. It is on the reverse side of the Corn Oyster recipe. Love the hair on the child.

I will caption the photos of what this book contains and share a couple of the hum drum Sunday dinner menus with you. Such a gift it was from my aunt (my father’s sister.) Everyone now is gone on both sides of the family so it is even more valuable for nostalgic perusing.

This 21 st birthday card from my maternal grandmother to my mother was also tucked into the book. The year would have been 1947, about two months before my mother married my father.
This is the note inside the birthday card for my mother, Sally.

I hope you have enjoyed this little historical journey into a small part of my family history. I think for 2021 I will make an effort to cook and share some of the recipes with you.

Read on for a list of a couple of the Sunday menus. Remember, these recipes are just for a non-event Sunday, not a special occasion or holiday. (So much work!!!). I picked a couple of menus at random.

NB: As this book was published in 1913, before WWI and the great depression of the 1930s, people must have been quite well off if there were to cook these menus or they had staff to do it. Families were bigger in those days than they are now and the resources used to go into these meals must have been many. I think members in my family back then would have simply picked and chosen what they wanted to cook individually as I might do in 2021 to carry on a tradition.








WOW! I’m stuffed !

23 thoughts on “Boxing Day 2020-Bookish Cooking

  1. I didn’t know you had that book. I love the card and the letter to mom! Looking forward to seeing more of the recipes like the Scotch potato soup. I’m going to give the prune cake a try. Looks good and keeps you regular!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoy reading cookery books, old or new. Its fun to read and marvel, or gasp in horror, at the list of ingredients. I have a battered copy of the Nyasaland Womens’Institute cookery book, published in the early 1920s, when there was no electricity and cooking was done on a wood stove, or maybe a parrafin tabletop stove. And limited access to shops. Often only the most basic local ingredients to hand. And yet, families ate three large meals per day tropical climate and grocery limitations notwithstanding!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 1920s, how fun. It is interesting to follow food trends of the past and see how they change. All the best for 2021. It will be good to see what direction everything goes this year. 🀠🐧🌷

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ummm… many of the meals we’ve been eating as a family have that many dishes: appetizer (or soup), meat, veg, starch, salad, desert. That is more work than I go to when I’m cooking for just myself, and some meals combine categories. But last night: cheese and crackers, Ethiopian chicken stew in sauce over nshima, kale salad, cranberry chocolate roulade. Granted, there are three of us to cook this week, so no one person is responsible for every meal or every dish – just the planning of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a wonderful discovery Pam. The message on the 21st card to your mum was so touching. It would be great fun to try and do Grandma Schavey’s Prune Cake though her list of ingredients might need some deciphering

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did think of trying it. I can read the recipe ok so I might make this cake and do a post about it and write the recipe in the post. Would be a fun January project. Had never heard of prune cake but not sure how our bodies might react to it. Lol.πŸ§πŸ‡πŸ‡πŸ‡


        1. I did think that too. What a way to start the new year. I have bought the ingredients so stay tuned. I’m making it in January. Thank you for the New Year’s laugh.🐧🀠


  5. pretty awesome, all the work that cooks went through back then… i love the expression on the little girl’s face: “I won’t eat this and you can’t make me!”, lol…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ahhh what a wonderful family treasure!!!! I always pick up these types of books if I find one at a decent price in a used book store. One treasure is a big, fat book of household tips and tricks. Unfortunately, all my books like that are in my apartment in L.A. so I can’t tell you the names of any of them, but one fine day when I get back there, maybe I’ll remember to hop back here and mention it. LOL

    Thanks for sharing the menus. Those are always fun to see and try to figure out what something is. In addition to the amount of work it took to make the meals, I cringe at the thought of trying to get the dishes clean back in the days before Dawn dish soap and nonstick pans. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My husband’s sister gave me a cookbook that my maternal grandmother had given her. Turns out my grandmother had been my husband’s sister’s Sunday school teacher! It was used a lot, and I used it a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.