I got a message from my neighbor Steve the other day, he was cleaning out his mother’s things and was I interested in some old cookbooks and loose recipes he wanted to see to a good home?
Among the gems were:
In the original mailing envelope, two Baker’s Coconut “Cut-up Cakes” how-to books (copyright 1956 &1967). Also stashed in there were directions cut out from magazines over the years.
I’m thinking one of my owl-crazy January birthdays might just get themselves an Owl cake this year.
A mint condition “The Velvet Blend Book: Milk-Rich Carnation Recipes”. From what I can gather, this was published in the late 1940’s, early 1950’s.
But it was the discovery of this tome that really has my cookbook/history geek flag flying high:
“Virgina Cookery – Past and Present Including A Manuscript Cook Book of The Lee & Washington Families Published for the First Time.” Published in 1957 by the Women’s Auxiliary of Olivet Episcopal Church of Franconia, Virginia, this cookbook features recipes not just from the Washington (as in George) and Lee (as in the General Robert E.) families, but recipes collected from all over the state. It clearly was well used by Mrs. Dawson, as evidenced by the notes and stains:
In addition to noting which recipes were ‘delicious’ and which ones could be split into two smaller pies was this:
Mrs. Dawson’s note disputing what was originally on the site of The General Washington Inn in Fredericksburg. A little bit of googling and I realized she might be correct – the old General Washington Inn in Fredericksburg was on the site of the home owned by Mildred Washington – who is listed as George’s aunt on that particular website, although a further search of Mildred Washington discovered Mildred Thorton Washington was a Washington cousin as well as George’s brother’s Charles wife. Huh. (The preceding paragraph is brought to you by a full hour long rabbit hole I found myself in this morning.)
There is history scattered throughout the book as well as recipes. There are references throughout of not just the legendary influential 1824 “The Virginia House-wife” by Mary Randolph, but also that book’s predecessor, Eliza Smith’s “The Compleat Housewife”, the first cookbook published in the US in 1727. Recipes are noted as being copied from Mrs. Gen. R. E. Lee’s own hand. And then there was this:
Handed down directly from the daughter of a Captain wounded at Chancellorsville.
I’m so touched that Steve thought to share this particular cookbook with me. It’s had me babbling quite excitedly about it over the last few days as I continue to pour over it. It’s culinary,family, state & American history in one book – it’s exactly what I love about a good, well-used cookbook. Thank you Steve.
12 thoughts on “An Early Christmas Present.”
Priceless, absolutely. Do a little research on it and see if you can’t do an ebook on Amazon. Write the forward and interview the last contributor who is still alive. Give the profits to the church but take a publisher’s cut. Enjoy $25 bucks a week for the rest of your life (probably way more, the title is a killer) and send Edy to college.
That is a fabulous idea Charles! Thanks!
What an amazing find! I’ve always annotated recipes and my mother too – I love to find books where others have done the same.
It’s the best, isn’t it? It cuts down on all the guesswork.
Incredible! I know I’ve mentioned that people shouldn’t write in books, but cookbooks definitely don’t fall under that rule. People should be encouraged to write in cookbooks! Mrs. Dawson’s notes are great.
Agreed. There has been a discussion here of perhaps moving some of the cookbook collection to digital. I might be okay with having a kindle, but cookbooks on it just don’t work. How would you know which recipes are good?
You must have been beside yourself with happiness when that packet arrived! I love the cook’s notes too. Definitely my kind of recipe book. “Wytheville”, another town in my family’s history. I sighed just reading the name. Lovely post!
Thank you. I had no idea what to expect and yes, I was tickled with it!
Annotated old cookbooks! What a find!