Recipes from a ghost book? Don’t worry- they’re friendly ghosts.
In fact they are family ghosts, those of my great aunt Nellie, my grandmother Ethel, and my mother Mary Elizabeth. These ghosts don’t appear as spirits, but their recipes live on in a 1910 cookbook I found among my mother’s things.
“Recipes-My Friends and My Own,” is a blank book with prompts for various foods. As I opened the well-used volume, the first thing that caught my eye was an article pasted on the flyleaf, “Twenty-four Uses for Lemons.” Did you know a cloth soaked in lemon juice and bound around a cut stops severe bleeding?* How about a spoonful of lemon juice in black coffee will cure bilious headache?*
*Try at your own risk. Our grandparents weren’t always right about everything.
On the opposite page is a handwritten recipe for Strawberry Cake and a clip from a newspaper, How to Remove Spots and Stains. But the thing that means the most to me is the declaration at the top:
With best wishes. To Ethel, from Nellie – April 26, 1910
As I thumbed through the book, I not only found recipes from the early 20th century, but later ones as well. It looked like my mother had added some things of her own. In the bottom corner is a handwritten note referring to rationing during WWII: May 4, 1942 – Sugar declared … 2 lbs per person… Oct. ’42, 5 lb per person. On the next page are Cake Frosting recipes cut from a magazine, then entrées on browned newsprint: Tamale Pie, Pilaf, and Italian Spaghetti with Liver (?).
The artwork in this volume is absolutely stunning! Both illustrations and text are thoroughly Art Nouveau. Done in black and red line drawings, they seem so representative of the times- over a century ago! Can you imagine yourself as this lovely young woman in her kitchen whipping up a cake or a loaf of bread for her family? So far removed from the kitchen of today. No microwave, Instant Pot, food processer (or even an electric mixer), no refrigerator, freezer, or dishwasher!
I actually have a few kitchen items from back then. A biscuit press, a nutmeg grater, and an egg slicer spring to mind, but I know there are more. It comes from being the only child of an only child, as well as my inability to get rid of anything. I will dig some of them out and take a few pictures, but that’s for another time.
I’m looking forward to going through this ancient book, reading the many recipes, and even trying some out. Once past the odd little illustration of the serving boy falling on his face, the Table of Contents gives some idea of where we will be going. And since my ancestors didn’t always put things in the correct places, there may be some surprises along the way. (What will we find in “The Chafing Dish” category, I wonder?) This may take a while!
You can still buy an antique copy of “Recipes, My Friends and My Own” on Amazon or Etsy.