Friday, June 24, 2011

Her Webster's Spelling Recipe Book, Cover & Page 1 - Family Recipe Friday

Among the treasures found in my aunt's apartment after her death a few years ago was this old "Webster Spelling No. 5525" tablet, filled with "Special Form Spelling Blanks." Another aunt took possession of it, then gave it to me. I was delighted. I have loved paper and notebooks and tablets since I was a child and from first glance I knew it was a treasure. How much of a treasure I wouldn't know until I looked inside.

Delicate is a mild word for its condition. The perforated pages were completely separated from the stapled binding. As I gently lifted the cover I found pages of recipes written by the precious hand of my grandmother, Emma Bickerstaff Meinzen.

Gramma was an excellent baker who rarely used recipes, so this tablet is a puzzle. On the cover are spaces for name, grade, school, and class. Each space has words or numbers written in pencil but only the number "4" on the line for class is legible. I cannot tell the year the tablet was printed--or the year my grandmother filled it with recipes--though it was patented on Dec. 14, 1909. Gramma would have been 16 that year but her handwriting looks more mature. That she, or someone else, used it while mixing and baking is evidenced by the remnants of drips and drops blotching the pages. The bottom edges of the pages are ragged and frayed from use and some of the last lines of ingredients or directions are illegible or completely worn away.

I've not made any of these recipes yet. Some list ingredients without instructions, as in the Beet Salad, below. Should I shred or grate or chop the beets, cabbage, and horse radish? Should I cook them--or not--before or after the shredding/grating/chopping? Should the vinegar, salt, and sugar be mixed and poured or cooked together first? Should the whole marinate for a day or be served immediately? Served hot or cold? I will experiment. Other recipes give more specific and/or step-by-step instructions and will be easier to follow.

The front of the first page has three recipes.

Beet Salad
1 qt. of beets.
1 qt. of cabbage.
1/2 cup of horse radish
2 cups vinegar
1 tablespoonful Salt.
1/2 cup. Sugar
1/2 teaspoonful of pepper

Devils Food Cake.
1 cup Sugar - White
1/2 " Shortening lard-[written at an angle at the end of the line] -butter
1 egg whole.
1 cup Sour Milk.
4 teaspoons cocoa.
1 " soda
1 " cinnamon
1 " vanilla
2 cups flower [sic]

Nut Bread.
1 scant cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon Salt.
1 cup [sour?] milk [and the rest of the recipe is illegible]

And on the reverse of the first page is this recipe.
(Soft Ginger Cookies).
3/4 cup lard, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 cup molas[ses,] 2 cup sour Milk, 1 teaspoon Soda, 1 1/4 teaspoons S[oda,] 4 cups flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of Ginger. Cream lard & Sugar. Add eggs well beaten. Beat well & add molasses. Mix & sift flour, Sift spices. Dissolve Soda in Sour Milk & add quickly to mixture. Beat hard & add remaining flour. Mix thoroly [sic]. Drop [from] teasp. onto oiled & floured sheets & bake 15 min. in Moderate oven. Flatten each teaspoon of dough before baking.
If you try any of these recipes, please tell me how they turned out! Thanks.


  1. Wow Nancy...what a treasure. I have several heads of home grown cabbage that need to get used soon. I may try the Beet/Cabbage Salad. I'm not crazy about horseradish but I'll give it a try as is. I'll let you know how it turns out.

  2. Mary, thank you! Yes, if you try it I'd love to learn how you did it and how it tasted. It sounds sour with all the vinegar and so little sugar. I wonder if it's a German recipe from her mother-in-law....


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