October 12, 2007

Excellent Recipes

A week ago I was sweltering in the heat and humidity while tending the antique booth at Blue Hills.

This morning there was the tiniest bit of fall in the air. I was begging for an excuse to be outside as lovely fall days are scarce and fleeting in southeast Texas. Here and gone before you know it.

I rarely stop at any of the garage sales around town as very seldom do I find anything of interest (to me). However, I stopped at several today because the weather was so nice.

I did find a treasure, and one that was quite touching, at that.

At one house, a quick look through a cardboard box shoved underneath a table revealed a plain, brown clasp envelope nearly hidden between several run-of-the-mill cookbooks.

In my experience, neglected, plain, brown envelopes stuffed with paper are always promising.

When I pulled the envelope out of the box, I noticed the words "Excellent Recipes - worn out cook book" written in pencil on the rear side.

Inside the envelope I found the very tattered remains of 199 Selected Recipes (1927, 64 pp.) by Sarah Field Splint.

Miss Sarah Field Splint was the Editor of the Food Department of McCall's Magazine when this little cookbook was first published in 1925. This was one of several booklets published by Procter & Gamble promoting the use of Crisco, which they had introduced to consumers in 1911.

It was a sad looking little thing. Ragged edges. Missing it's cover with no sign of the staples that once held the pages together. Blue dampstains of unknown origin marking every single page. Fountain pen ink, perhaps. Pages detached and stuck back together again all willy-nilly. Sporting spots from grease and spots from being stored in an unairconditioned space. Bent and creased page corners. A few tears here and there.

Poor little cookbook. Someone practically loved it to death, yet still couldn't bear to throw it away. So they put it in this envelope for safekeeping. It didn't belong to the lady having the garage sale--I asked. "A friend," she replied vaguely, much more interested in arranging a pile of decrepit old shoes to their best advantage.

I believe the original cover of this booklet looked like the one shown here.

Perhaps you're wondering now. Which recipes did the previous owner consider "excellent"? The two recipes below are the ones where the pages are the most heavily spotted from use (yes, old food stains) and which also rated penciled checkmarks. Appropriate, too, considering the quickly approaching holidays.


Plain Pastry
2 cups cooked and strained pumpkin
1 cup milk
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites

Line a pie pan with Plain Pastry and pinch with fingers to make a fancy edge. Mix the pumpkin and milk together. Add the beaten egg yolks. Add the sugar, mixed with the cinammon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Mix well. Fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Turn into the pie pan. Bake in a quick oven (450 degrees F.) 10 minutes, reduce heat to hot oven (375 degrees F.) and bake 20 minutes longer or until the filling is firm.


2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup Crisco
Ice water

Mix and sift flour and salt. Cut in the Crisco with a knife. Add only water enough to hold the ingredients together. Do not knead. Chill thoroughly. Divide dough into 2 parts and roll out thin a a slightly floured board. Line a pie pan with one-half the pastry. Pinch pastry with the fingers to make a fancy edge and prick bottom and sides with a fork. Bake in a very hot oven (460 degrees F.) 10 to 15 minutes. For a 2 crust pie, line pie pan with pastry, put in a filling, cover with top crust and bake as directed for pies.

If a less rich pastry is desired, use only 1/2 cup Crisco.


Close behind these two, displaying additional heavy usage (more food stains) are the pages containing recipes for the Yeast Breads and Quick Breads--breads, muffins, biscuits, popovers, cornbread, nut bread and coffeecake. This lady was a busy baker.

In the booklet, Miss Splint speaks her piece regarding Pastry and Crisco:

"Two important principals underlie pastry making. They are short and easily remembered. In colloquial language they are, "Keep the water out" and "Get the air in." In other words pastry that is made with too much water is tough and hard, while pastry that is kneaded and prodded and crushed beneath a rolling pin makes a fine substitute for shoe leather.

So when you make pastry use the smallest amount of liquid that will hold the ingredients together.

Closely related to the question of liquid in pastry is the amount and kind of shortening used. Generally speaking, the less water and the more shortening the flakier the pastry will be. A soft, moist shortening has almost the effect of liquid on pastry, making it tough and rubbery.

For this reason, Crisco, which becomes hard when kept for some time in a cold place, is the ideal shortening. Instead of melting and contributing its share of moisture to the dough, it remains in tiny pieces which melt only in the heat of the oven and produces the much desired "shortness"."

Did I really need to add a tattered old cookbook to my collection when I know I have a nicer copy of this very same booklet around here somewhere? Yes. Yes, I did. Sometimes the history we seek from these old cookbooks is found in the ones like these.

The ones with heart.

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At 12:18 AM CDT, Blogger ivy said...

Wow, thanks for sharing the recipes. I love to try new recipes whenever I have time to dedicate to them. I think that it was meant to be that you found this book. It could have been thrown away, but instead it fell into the hands of someone who would appreciate it. I am going to have to bookmark your page so I can come back after my school exams and try some baking. :-)


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