Homemakers’ cookbook celebrates 50 years without printing a new edition
By Sarah Smith
The last of the Arago “Friendly” Homemakers “Recipes & Hints” cookbooks went on sale last weekend.
It was the 50th annual celebration of baking and friendship. But this year the cookbook contained a commemorative page you could pick up listing “in loving memory” all the cooks who’d passed on. There will be no 50th anniversary cookbook.
It’s an era whose time has passed.
Now all cooks need is the click of a button to look something up on Google. Those recipes and hints of the homemakers are of a bygone time.
But the tips are invaluable.
“Pink applesauce is much more tempting to children than beige or brown,” the book suggests on page 14. “Add a drop of red food coloring to servings. Multi-colored tiny candies in bright designs make applesauce a new treat.”
And this one:
“Never put a cover on anything that is cooked in milk unless you want to spend hours cleaning up the stove when it boils over.”
“Baking powder will remove tea or coffee stains from china pots or cups.”
“For extra juicy, extra nutritious hamburgers, add ¼ cup evaporated milk per pound of meat before shaping.”
How about this one:
“Anything that grows under the ground, start off in cold water – potatoes, beets, carrots, etc. Anything that grows above ground, start off in boiling water – English peas, green beans, etc.”
Would Google tell you that?
A lifetime of wisdom is contained in this three-ring, 100-page book. It’s sprinkled with witticisms from homemakers to Abe Lincoln. Seventeen charter members started the project in 1964.
Ironically, the group has grown over the last 50 years by a few and still meets monthly.
Dorothy Long, although not a charter member, still is active in the group she joined in 2002. The cookbook is actually in its second printing. She typed all of the recipes. The late Dorathy Theisen typed all the hints and tips.
There’s a 14-point chart on how to wash dishes by hand. There are pointers on how to make your own glass cleaner using Prell shampoo and rubbing alcohol. Is Prell shampoo still sold?
Then there’s lard. You’re supposed to “insert strips of fat in gashes made in meat; or to place slices of fat on top of uncooked lean meat or fish for flavor, or to prevent dryness.”
Most cholesterol-conscious doctors would suggest skipping this tip altogether.
But the baking tips and hints might be invaluable to the beginning baker. They list causes of failure for baking mishaps.
For instance, if your cakes crack and have an uneven surface, you might have used “too much flour, too hot an oven and sometimes from cold oven start.”
If your cookies are soggy, it might be from “leaving cookies in pans instead of racks.”
If your fruit or custard pies don’t brown, “bake at constant temperature 400-425 degrees) in Pyrex or enamel pie pan,” the cookbook suggests.
The group never met in the summer, Long said, and still doesn’t. That’s when kids are out of school and, in the past, women were busy on farms.
When the first printing came around, the group had no money to publish it, so Long remembers running around town drumming up sponsors.
“For $100 they’d get ten copies of the cookbook,” she said, “That’s how we got the money to print the thing.”
The drive made several thousand dollars, Long recalled.
Nowadays, homemakers face stiff competition in their endeavors.
“There’s too much of the same kinds of stuff” put out, Long said. The Homemakers staffed a table at St. Peter’s Catholic Church Fall Bazaar last weekend, but are looking for unique venues for their handmade objects.
“What can we do?”
Long recalls with humor getting the inaugural cookbook together, quite an effort.
“Can you imagine collating this thing with a bunch of old ladies?”
She laughs at the memory.