Colorado Cook Book, published by The Young Ladies’ Mission Band of the Central Presbyterian Church
Although I consider myself no particularly great cook, I am no stranger to reading and enjoying cookbooks . Nor am I a stranger to church cookbooks, as they are not uncommon in my own background. Among the more notable aspects of this book that stuck out to me, and even troubled me a little, was the fact that the cook book was so short (at only about 45 pages or so) but so full of advertisements. Perhaps it is more common for religious works to be filled with advertising in other traditions, but in my own that is not the customary way of proceeding, and I was struck by how commercial the book was, to the point where it resembled some of the trade magazines I have read and reviewed previously. I had expected this book to provide a focus of food that would relate to Colorado, but found that many of the dishes had followed the congregants from the South, of all places. This was definitely a book that surprised me and confounded my own modest expectations, although whether or not that is a bad thing is difficult to say.
The contents of this short book are straightforward. Much of the content is taken up of advertisements, as has been previously noted. The remainder of the content is taken up with the expected recipes as well as an index at the end. The book opens with a reminder that the ingredient of common sense is necessary to use this book profitably, and that is a wise precaution to take. Included are recipes for bullion soups, entrees, bread (and even yeast), as well as various cakes and other sweets. Some of the striking qualities include a simplicity of ingredients, although there is a marked fondness for lemon and New Orleans molasses. There were quite a few meat dishes although there was a striking lack of vegetables other than starchy ones like potatoes. Modern readers will find the fare discussed here to be hearty but lacking in many of the refinements and wide variety of foods that are available to contemporary cooks in local grocery stores. Unsurprisingly, the fare here resembles the sort of fare a person would expect on the Oregon Trail rather than in a contemporary Trader Joe’s or similar establishment.
What is remarkable about this book as well is the sort of assumed knowledge many of the recipes have. Many contemporary cookbooks, aware of the lack of homemaking knowledge of their readers, spell out what equipment to use to make what dishes and also give detailed instructions on preparation of the items discussed. On the contrary, these recipes assume a high degree of background knowledge, expecting someone to know what is needed to make an omelette, for example. The simplicity of the ingredients and the laconic nature of the instructions means that most of the recipes included here are immensely short. Whether or not this brevity is to the taste of the reader depends on the background knowledge they bring to this particular book. This book is perhaps best read for background knowledge of the eating habits of people in the late 19th and early 20th century, especially for use by writers and historical reenactors looking to build authenticity in the portrayal of the eating habits of the time and place. Other readers will likely find this book to be quaint and entertaining, but that is not necessarily a bad thing and this book is certainly easy enough to enjoy on its own modest merits.
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