Tried, Tested and True
Hello, my name is Kristin. I am a cookbook addict. 😁
Some people might ask why anyone would use a printed cookbook anymore. With the internet’s omnipotence and recipe apps galore, who needs one measly collection?
But it’s not just the recipes I love. The stories behind the recipes and the communities they come from are what really satisfy me.
Although I appreciate the mastery of the cookbooks I have from professional chefs, my most cherished ones are those from community groups, full of family favourites and garnished with household hints.
I found another such volume this past week while visiting a local antique shop. I bought it for its original price of one dollar.
The cover is tattered, held on with scotch tape. The title is simple and straightforward:
COOK BOOK – compiled by the Porcupine Plains Ladies Hospital Aid – Tried & Tested Recipes.
I think it was mimeographed; the ink is the same purplish tone that I remember from elementary school. At some point, a person overjoyed with a pen took to scribbling on a few of the pages, but thankfully none of the information was compromised.
Although the presentation is simple, many of the recipes assume a fair bit of knowledge. A recipe for Jelly Roll Cake lists ingredients and then just says:
Add egg whites last. Bake in a long tin and while still warm turn out on a damp cloth, spread with jelly or jam and roll.
This is a cake that was a featured test on the British Baking Show, and it takes up only 4 lines. Obviously this was a community that had a few star bakers. It is also worth noting that the recipe next to it is Puffed Wheat Cake.
There is a dog-eared page splattered with batter which I think became Apple Upside Down Cake. And a recipe for Six Day Pickles that has a number of check marks, as if someone was making sure they got it right. Tried and tested indeed!
Already I knew I had a winner for my collection, but when I saw the last page, I could hear my Gramps’ voice telling stories of “back in the day”. This page didn’t have recipes. It started with the heading, DID YOU KNOW…?
There is no publication date, but this historic booklet has indications it comes from a good while ago. It harkens back to a time when women went by their married name – as in Mrs. John Smith. The ladies in the Aid Society were recognized as such. There is a thank you note listing each member at the front of the book, and it says in part:
Without this help, and Moral Co-operation, the Board would find it difficult to give the high standard of care which we endeavour to maintain.
The list of equipment and supplies that were provided included items like basic linen and bedding as well as a furnished nursery that included an infant incubator. Exactly what “Moral Cooperation” entailed I don’t know, but given the capitalization it must have been important. Q
Today the world runs at a different pace. Hospital fundraisers are gala events. Recipes are shared by Facebook. Our community is global now, and sometimes that means we lose the intimacy of old.
There is a simple truth to recipes like Jellied Salad and Puffed Wheat Cake. And I have admiration for a community where cooking was common enough that baking times and temperatures were not needed when sharing a recipe.
Trying and testing is important too. It might be fun to cook something new sometimes, but we master a skill when we have a chance to learn from our mistakes. Once we gain confidence we can adapt and change and evolve from a solid foundation. The most solid foundation is made with a collaboration of people and ingredients.
I feel like an emissary, sharing this wee piece of history. Perhaps that is what draws me to these books, a sense that I am being called to carry on the traditions and continue the Moral Cooperation that gets people around a table.
I’ll let you know how the Apple Upside Down Cake turns out.
Posted on June 13, 2021, in baking, cake, classics, dessert, food, history, recipe, sharing, traditions and tagged cake, community cookbook, cookbook, history, recipe, tried and tested. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.