Several years ago, prior to his passing, my father-in-law rewrote much of this book and put it in spiral format, along with his own comments and memories, and gave them to his children and grandchildren. I can't think of a better idea.
Here's some of what he wrote in the preface:
Pearle Wooten was born in 1869, almost a hundred years before yours truly. She was a well-respected member of her community, and apparently a well-respected cook based on something my FIL added to his notes.
"When I was growing up, nearly every Sunday one of the ministers would eat dinner at my Grandmother's house. It was a standing invitation. I remember Reverend Marmion..., and Rev. Arey. Also there was Bishop Quinn from Houston, who came about every three or four months to conduct Sunday services in Columbus and Eagle Lake. Bishop Quinn and his wife always ate at my Grandmother's house after service. It is possible that he arranged it so as to have to Columbus service at 11:00 o'clock."
Of course every good Southern woman must have a recipe for cheese straws. Pearle had two. Here's one of them.
1 1/2 cup dry cheese
1/3 amount of butter
2 scant cups of flour
2 teaspoons of salt
1 yolk of egg
pinch of cayenne
Cold water to make stiff dough, small amount of baking powder. Roll out about 1/4 inch thick. Cut in narrow strips, bake in hot oven.
How's that for a recipe? Do you know what dry cheese is? And just how much is 1/3 amount of butter?
Here's a recipe you're sure to love. You'll be chomping at the bit to serve this one at your next family gathering.
(for two tongues)
1 Tbs. saltpeter
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 cup salt
Cut slits in tongue, put pieces of garlic. Put in stone pot, held down with weight for one week. Then cook and peal. Keep in ice box, wrapped in paraffin paper.
I'm guessing paraffin paper is our waxed paper, but what exactly is saltpeter?
I thought this was an interesting recipe.
Wartime Delicate Frosting
Heat 1 cup honey on top of stove until it pours quickly. While this is warming, beat one egg white to which 1/8 tsp of salt has been added. Pour slowly the warm honey into the egg mixture and continue beating. Beat until frosting is stiff. Add flavoring if desired. It is delicious and a pretty cream color.
I totally get this one. Sugar was rationed during the war, so they found other ways to make due. And this one just might not be too bad.
Then, as now, they had their special recipes they'd break out for holidays.
The Best of All Christmas Candy
Take 1 cup of dates (seeded), 1 cup figs or prunes soaked and seeded, but not cooked, 1 cup nuts (any kind). Run all four materials through grinder using medium cutter. Moisten with a little orange juice till all is molted into a paste. Roll into smooth, even balls the size of marbles. Toss each ball on a plate of sugar till coated. Lay in neat rows on a plate till dry. 1 1/2 doz. of these balls neatly arranges on a holly decorated plate and covered with holly paper napkins - nice to take to neighbor friend on Christmas morning.
Pearle's book ended with Rules for Serving.
Remove salad plates with left hand, change to right hand, then take the two to the kitchen at one time. Beginning with hostess, next person to right of hostess. Do all around the table. Next place the carving fork left, carving knife and serving spoon at right of host.
Place turkey in front of host. Cranberry molds with service spoon at left of host. The dinner plates are on serving table.
The maid, having two dinner plates in hand, stands behind the host at his left, places one before host, who wills it also placing one cranberry mold. The maid then removes the filled plate with the left hand and places the empty plate before the host with the right hand. The maid carries the filled plate to the hostess - she then takes an empty plate from the service table and proceeds as above.
Maid passes vegetables in serving dishes to each person after she has placed the dinner plates with meat and cranberries on them to everyone. The maid passes bread and relishes and keeps glasses and butter replenished (serve hot rolls when needed).
First remove turkey. Remove dinner plates, dinner plates in left hand, bread and butter in right. Remove salt and pepper and any other unused silver on small tray. Remove crumbs, if necessary with plates and napkins.
Y'all, if this was an informal dinner, I can't imagine the formal dinner.
I wish I could have been a guest at Pearle Wooten's table. That is, so long as she wasn't serving Pickled Tongue. When I look at some of her recipes, I can see how cooking and baking was an all-day affair. But the meals were truly an event. Something I know I would do well to learn from my great grandmother-in-law:-)
I know we often discuss old cookbooks here at the cafe. What is it that makes a cookbook special to you? Do you prefer the ease of today or wish for those time-honored traditions of yesteryear?
I love the fact that my FIL took the time to compile the recipes and his memories for all of us to share with generations to come.
Happy eating, y'all.