And Now for Something Completely Different...

Brother, can you spare a dime? By Norm Laskay

One very interesting area in the John & Bonnie Boyd Hospitality & Culinary Library is the sections that contain the cookbooks put out as fundraisers.  You know, the ones you bought from your child’s school or from your church. Like me, you might even have contributed a recipe or two over the years.

Well, the library has them from all over the country. While churches seem to be the biggest source, I’ve seen one put out by a southern city law firm and one from a northern Ohio group of bee keepers!

The ones from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, are always great to flip through. Having lived those decades, I can attest that there are some recipes that are in every one but which you no longer see in modern cookbooks. Like gelatin salads. Now I admit that Jello and coleslaw frequently produced something bilious in color and terribly bland. But there is a cookbook put out by the Chefs De Cuisine Association of San Diego that had gelatin and aspic molds from restaurant menus that will make you rethink your aversion to this staple of 1950’s holidays. There can actually be a middle ground between Jello and coleslaw, and hog’s head cheese.

The appetizer sections are also interesting as styles change. But I have seen some variations on oldies, particularly spreads and dips, that sound wonderful.

Another intriguing find in these books, particularly in those from the Midwest and northwest, are recipes with gumbo in the name. Now these recipes are gumbo to a resident of Thibodaux, Louisiana like Cincinnati chili is chili to a resident of Amarillo, Texas. We can argue about gumbo, but I like the rule that it is gumbo if it has either filé or okra in it. Many of those far north “gumbos” neglect to make a roux and a filé is just something you find in a tool box.

But to give credit to the church ladies and Moms, the biggest sections of many of these books is the dessert section. While brownies, chocolate cake and oatmeal cookies are the most common, regions have desserts based on regional fruits which produce pies and tarts that are not southern staples. In this age where a good local supermarket might have many of these fruits, jams or syrups from far away, or where they may be available online for fast shipping, that special dessert from North Dakota or Vermont may be easy to create.

Many of these recipes were family treasures and the pride of home holidays and pot-luck gatherings. While touring others kitchens is great fun, these areas of the John & Bonnie Boyd Library give you the opportunity to also tour their recipe box.