Thursday, December 16, 2010

Antique Cookbook

I'd like to introduce you to one of my treasures, something I would miss if it was lost in a fire: The Settlement Cook Book: The Way to a Man's Heart, 1931. I've had it for about 20 years and got it from an estate sale. My parents were renting the home of the estate sale for a short duration, and the owners said we could have first dibs. I found this.

What I love about this book: it's before food processing, convenience foods, fast-foods, fake foods, and even plastic containers. It's written before the era of when food became the enemy and something to conquer. Food was a way to life and something to be enjoyed.

There is a section (2 pages) about calories. It says men need 2200-4000 calories per day, and women need 2000-3000. (That's not too far off; SparkPeople say 2700 and 2000 respectively). There's nothing about dieting or "watching" calories.

Preparations in this book are from scratch, even the cream-of-whatever soups (did you know that at one time they didn't come in cans?). Here's the section on preparing a chicken, and it doesn't include opening a can or defrosting:

The book also includes home care: airing a room (pre a/c), removing stains, washing dishes, lighting wood/coal/gas ovens. Here are some other "How-to's" of the period I found interesting.

P. 14 -- How to make soap (grease, lye, water, borax, salt, sugar, ammonia)
P. 35 -- Preparing foods for infants
p. 39 -- Egg Nog (I make this often - SO good and healthier than store-bought
P. 192 - Squabs (aka pigeon)
p. 198 - Venison, Rabbits
p. 213 - Chayote, Dandelions ... DANDELIONS!!

And because this is a veggie blog, I'll share what the first sentence of Chapter XVI "Vegetables" says, "Vegetables of all kinds and especially the green, leafy varieties, are rich in that something called 'vitamins' and should be used freely to promote the health and prolong the life of the family." I like the part, "in that something called vitamins."

In the back of the book are advertisements of the "latest" products and equipment. Check out this stove:

Thanks for going back in culinary history with me. This is my go-to book, especially for cooking vegetables. Sometimes the instructions are vague ("put in moderate oven"), but I feel connected to it. I'm thankful for some modern conveniences as I think of the cooks 80 years ago reading the same pages in their kitchens. I appreciate my gadgets and appliances. But, along with modern conveniences including cooking blogs and recipes on the internet, I'm still thankful for this book.

Update: My mom found this info about the book and its author, Lizzie Black Kander, on Wikipedia:
Lizzie Black Kander (1858–1940) was the founder of a settlement house in Milwaukee, where she originated The Settlement Cookbook. [1] She was born in Wisconsin to GermanJewish immigrants. In 1896 she founded the Keep Clean Mission at B'ne Jeshurun Temple in Milwaukee to help educate young Jewish girls to assimilate to a more mainstream American way of life. This was followed by the similarly conceived Milwaukee Jewish Mission at Emanu-El Guild Hall. In 1901 she moved her work to The Settlement, on North 5th Street. (Charitable social work among immigrants was often called "settlement work" at that time.)
Once of Kander's aims was to teach young girls to cook and keep house. As she later recounted, her students spent a lot of time copying recipes from a chalk board, so she decided to print the recipes in the form of a cookbook to save them time. Writing as "Mrs. Simon Kander" (after her husband's name), she compiled a 174-page collection of recipes, household hints, and advice on housekeeping. None of the local Jewish religious organizations would help her fund the project, but the husband of one of her female friends was a printer, and he agreed to undertake the work, which was supported by selling advertisements. Although the complete title of the book was The Way to A Man's Heart ... The Settlement Cook Book, it is generally known as The Settlement Cook Book.
The first Settlement Cook Book was published in 1901 and its 1,000 copies sold out within one year. It was greatly expanded and reprinted on a regular basis, and funds from book sales allowed The Settlement, of which Kander was the president, to buy land on North 9th Street in 1910 and to erect a new building there in 1912. The Settlement Cook Book proved so popular that 34 subsequent editions—totalling 2 million copies—followed the original edition. The third edition of 1931 is probably the most popular with cookbook collectors.
What sets The Settlement Cook Book apart from other recipe books of its time is the fact that Lizzie Kander, while trying to help foreign girls become "good Americans," also assembled the first and largest collection of ethnic Jewish and German recipes ever published. Her simple, intelligent, and straightforward authorial style marks the early editions of the work, and her willingness to publish as many as five or six variations of a simple cookie or torte recipe made the collection a unique slice-of-life glimpse into Jewish American cookery of the early 20th century. Kander wrote and edited the book until her death; afterwards it was revised by members of The Settlement Cook Book Company. It has remained in print for more than 100 years, both in current revisions and in facsimile reprints of earlier editions.


  1. What a treasure. That seems like a fascinating read. Ah, simpler times.

  2. What a great find! I love old recipe books and have a small collection of recipe booklets that usually came with product information like tapioca or gelatin. One of mine is all about making gelatin foods using meat and other hideous things that should not be made into gelatin. But they are great for reading. Really shows the culture back in the days of yore.

    What a keeper you have there.

  3. I used to have a copy of this book. Handed down from my dad's mother and then handed down to me. I lost it, sadly.