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Tales from the old-timer

The Cookbook

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

daughter of the Old-Timer




**********

My paternal grandmother Marion (Mogan) died when my father was seven so I never knew her. My childhood “grandma” on the Thibodeau side was my Step-Grandmother, Rosella. Some of the things I remember about her were that I never saw her in slacks, ever, even at their tiny cottage on Rost Lake. And if she was cooking, she always had one of those full-front cover aprons on over her housedress.

A few years ago my Mother gave me Grandma Rosella’s handwritten cookbook. I enjoy cooking, and try out new things a lot, so she thought I’d like to have it.

It’s a hard-bound book, with yellowed “foolscap” paper - quite brittle now, and the ink is faded. But you can still read the contents in her neat script handwriting.

My guess is the book dates from the early 40’s, although it’s hard to tell. It has many canning recipes, reflecting that most women of those days put up their own fruits and vegetables, and even canned their own meats for preservation. There is a recipe for ketchup, for example. Can you imagine someone cooking their own ketchup from scratch and canning it now? And quite a few ethnic recipes, including one for “Schnecken” which appears to be a sort of sweet bread roll. One is for a Christmas cake which I well remember - it was full of Brazil nuts and maraschino cherries with a bright pink frosting. I won’t share the name of the cake in the cookbook, because these days it would rightly be considered an ethnic slur, but we call it “Christmas cake” now and it’s amazing. Now that I have the recipe, I make it for every December’s holiday.

She wasn’t one to give a lot of specific directions - some recipes are a list of ingredients, with the notation on the end “bake until done.” No temperature, no time. Old practiced cooks apparently didn’t need such specifics.

While I remembered her wonderful Christmas cake, her most famous dish was her “Chop Suey.” It had several types of meats in it, bead molasses and plenty of soy sauce and bean sprouts. We’d be excited all day if we were invited over to their little house on Noquebay Street for Chop Suey. But there is one recipe in the book I probably won’t be trying - “Liver Loaf.” It calls for grinding up boiled liver, and forming it into sort of a meat loaf before baking. Somehow, although I do eat liver occasionally, I think I’ll pass on trying that one out.

I made copies of the book for my siblings since it’s interesting to browse through.

Maybe I will challenge my sister the vegetarian to cook up a batch of the liver loaf some time.


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