Research Thoughts

“Our Favorite Recipes”

Before there were food bloggers, Instagram, and YouTube, there were community cookbooks. Cookbooks compiled and edited by women’s organizations, churches, and other groups, mostly prepared as fundraisers. The women of the community would put out a call for the group’s best recipes. These were then collected, organized into categories, and prepared for printing. Some were typewritten, some printed in the cook’s own handwriting, many include illustrations made by the artist in the organization. All were prized upon publication and shared with family and friends all over the state and the country. 

My mother-in-law collected these cookbooks and used them often. Upon trying a recipe she would write notes to herself on the recipe such as any changes she had made, or most often, we will find a “good,” or, “v. good” written above the recipe. Most often it was some sort of baked good that she had tried. Her family could be fussy about meat and vegetables, especially onions, but there was never a hesitation to try a new recipe for a baked good. I have been collecting and compiling my version of a community cookbook. As I gather the recipes that Marie had deemed worthy of a “good” comment, first as a blog titled “The Aroma of Bread” and here, just tagged as The Aroma of Bread, and indexed under Marie’s Recipes.

When we were preparing to move to Rhode Island, we worried about finding a hairdresser. Sarah put a request on her “hairdresser message board” asking if there was anyone in Rhode Island that would like to take on four of her clients from Wisconsin. The call was answered by Sara, a Wisconsin transplant. As luck would have it, her salon was not that far from our new house. 

Sara recently returned from a visit home with a few treasures that she happened to share an image of on social media. One image caused my daughter to stop and take a second look. Showing me the image she asked, “Doesn’t Grandma have this book?” Running upstairs to where I had recently unpacked the box with the cookbooks, she came back downstairs with the same book. 

Our Favorite Recipes By The Ladies Of St. John’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Compiled and Edited by St. John’s Guild, West Bend, Wisconsin. Copyright 1949, 1959 St. John’s Guild. A book so well received, and so good, that it was reprinted ten years after its first printing! In my experience, at the ten-year mark, a NEW cookbook was collected and prepared. Sara’s copy is the original from 1949, where ours is the 1959 reprint. Here we are in 2021, two transplanted families from Wisconsin, neither from Washington County, both having in their family collection the same church cookbook. 

Paging through the cookbook looking for tell-tale signs that a recipe had been attempted, or was a favorite, we found a few. The first to catch our attention was this sticky page that was Margaret Rohde’s recipe for “Lemon Jello Salad” where Marie noted, “I used large pk jello.”

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