Sometimes your new favorite recipe isn’t the one found in a fancy upscale cookbook. Generations of women have carefully compiled their family’s favorite dishes for church, charity, and patriotic publications for over a century. Many of these special and locally printed books are available online for free from Google Books and Internet Archive. Try searching for phrases such as ‘church cookbook’, ‘[denomination] cookbook’ or ‘society cookbook’ in the search box of each of these sites to browse their selection. And while you put the finishing touches on your holiday menus, you will want to take a look at some of these vintage recipes for delicious crowd-pleasing inspiration.
The Trinity Cook Book was compiled in 1925 by the ladies and family cooks of the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church in Roanoke, Virginia. A marvelous cookbook of simple and tasty dishes, the Trinity Cook Book was a fundraiser for the church, and includes lovely bonus advertisements for local merchants and service providers.
There are extensive soup, sauce, and dessert chapters in the book, as well as some fantastic small plate and appetizer ideas such as these tasty morsels:
Looking for a potluck holiday dish? Try a comfort food classic like Swiss steak, a creamy casserole, or a baked ham. The ladies of the San Rafael Presbyterian Church brought the best of their family recipes from their pantries on the pages of their 1906 cookbook. Here’s a pot roast recipe to try at your own holiday gathering:
Genealogy alert! Each recipe provides credit to the ladies who contributed them to the cookbook. In some instances, the contributors submitted multiple recipes in one or more chapters. This is the equivalent of an early 20th century Facebook status post of a family dinner table. What a great way to bridge time between the San Rafael of today with one from the last century.
The ladies of the Central Congregational Church of Topeka, Kansas compiled and published a cookbook in 1913 for the 25th anniversary of their church. There are many tasty desserts and meat dishes chronicled in this book, and there are no less than six separate ‘Nut Loaf’ recipes of varying instructions and ingredients. Here is one of my favorites. I can’t wait to give it a try!
Last year, I found one of the earliest recipes for Turkey and cranberry sauce from Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery book. It may be interesting to compare this early recipe with one printed nearly 120 later in Favorite Dishes Contributed by the Daughters of the American Revolution. All recipes, including this one for roast turkey, gravy, and dressing, were contributed by members of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
This 1916 cookbook is bursting with lavish and impressive dishes for your guests and relations, as well as trusted serving advice, technique notes, and alternative ingredient recommendations. If your DAR chapter is interested in hosting a historic potluck next year for the centennial of this book, this is the must-read for your members!
Here are two dessert recipes which will allow you to keep a classic staple on the table next to a seasonal sweet treat. I found this recipe for a ‘Denver Exposition Pumpkin Pie’ which seems rather straightforward. I have not been able to pin down a date for Denver’s Exposition, but I did find a great article chronicling Denver’s “City Beautiful” movement from 1890 to 1935. It’s an excellent read and an interesting story to tell around the dinner table. You will also want to check out the Caramel Pie as a good substitute for those folks who may be allergic to the nuts in a Pecan pie.
Genealogists take note! The book includes photos of not only the pastor and project organizers, but of nearly all the contributing female members of the church. All the photos include a list of individuals in the photographs! If you have Topeka ancestors, you will want to check this book for family recipes you have never seen before!
Let’s give thanks for our families, our heirloom dishes, and the togetherness found during the holiday season!
See you at the Library!