Friday, July 10, 2009

"Mammaw" Larck's Cookbook Still Relevent

Friday is so great! Not only is it the beginning of the weekend, but it's also the day that I share my thoughts on a cookbook from my collection that I've been reading during the week. The book that I'm sharing this week is one of my treasured favorites. It originally belonged to "MamMaw" Minnie Larck, a petite older lady full of energy and optimism that we befriended at one of our past church families.

"MamMaw" shared a birthday with our youngest son, Ben. At the time that we attended that congregation, Ben was the youngest member and "MamMaw" Larck was the oldest. She absolutely loved the idea that Ben came into the world on her birthday and she remembered him every year with a little gift (even though, she had plenty of her own dear grandchildren and great grandchildren to buy for) Ben,in turn, usually paid her a visit on her birthday with something that he (we) had made for her; one year she got hand-decorated gingerbread men and Ben helped her eat her gift!

During her working years, Minnie Larck influenced many young people as she reared her own children and served as head cook at an elementary school. Her own children all turned out to be workers in the church, including one Elder and a daughter who was a preacher's wife. Those many children that she cooked for at Scott-Teays Elementary benefited from her smile and positive example.

After Mrs. Larck left this world for a better situation, I was given one of her cookbooks with her name handwritten in the front and a lemon cookie recipe scribbled in the back (that uses 5 lbs. of pastry flour!) for "her children"...all of them.

Woman's Home Companion Cook Book is a thick and sturdy cookbook that had a run of five printings after WWII. It was published by P. F. Collier & Son Corp. from New York. My copy is the final 1946 printing. This is a go-to type "workhorse" of a cookbook.

As with many items from the past that are re-discovered and found to be useful, this book addresses families on a small food budget which is relevant in today's economy (according to recent media reports). If you go to the grocery store and gas pump on a regular basis, you might also feel that these reports could have some merit. The mission statement in the front, written by food editor, Dorothy Kirk, explains that the book can, 'help everybody from the bride just starting out to the more experienced cook in search of something new.' She goes on to say, "It will solve problems for families on small food budgets and supply unlimited ideas for those with larger ones. Let it be your friend. It will see you through the unending rounds of three meals a day."

This book has no back stories or chatty text giving the historical significance of a recipe, but it does include several tips for the preparation and presentation of the food item. For example, the section on fruits and vegetables, gives tips on selecting each type of melon, peach, or orange and gives the reader a break down of each kind of that particular fruit and when it is in season. If you've ever tried to pick a good melon when you have never done it before, this would be very helpful advice.

Selecting the best fruits and vegetables is not the only money-saver in this cookbook, it includes lists of ways to use up leftover cooked cereals (one is a gnocchi recipe using Cream of Wheat-type cereal). Another section of the book is entitled, "Using Leftover, Dried and Canned Meats" and is followed by other recipes in the book for sandwich spreads, both meat-based and cheese or vegetable-based spreads. There are lots of recipes for egg dishes, pasta and rice, and you know that these are meal-stretchers.

I like the versatility in this 951-page resource of cooking knowledge because even though it is very practical in its focus and tone, it has canape' recipes for parties and a wonderful dessert section that's full of both fancy and homey desserts. I am just amazed at the number of recipes that brought back memories of desserts that our grandparents enjoyed: Fruit Fritters; Bread Pudding ("Pappy" Michael's favorite); Baked Custard (Mom made it for us as children); Rice Pudding (of Pokey Little Puppy fame!); Tapioca Cream (my dad's favorite) and Mince Pie (past Thanksgivings).

The only less-than-desirable part of this book to me is the section on Organ Meats and Tongue, but you find that in many older cookbooks. There are people who enjoy these foods, I'm just not among them. There's a recipe in the book for Pepper Pot and I know that is a very historic recipe in the exotic foods category. So if you have an "advanced palate" this is your book, as well!

With few pictures, and lots of recipes, this is just as the food editor describes it, "more than a cookbook; a handy kitchen encyclopedia." If you had no other cookbook, you could be well-fed and well-informed.

The sample recipe today is going to be from that dessert section that impresses me so much. Here you go:

P. 600 Apple Brown Betty

Butter, melted, 1/4 C
Dry bread, cubed, 1 1/2 C
Tart apples, diced or sliced, 4 to 5 C
Brown sugar, 3/4 C
Cinnamon, 1 tsp
Salt, 1/4 tsp
Lemon juice, 2 TBSP
Water, 1/3 C

Mix melted butter with dry bread cubes. Combine apples, sugar, cinnamon and salt.

Place part the the bread cubes in the bottom of a greased casserole; add layers of apples alternately with bread cubes; have bread cubes on top; pour combined lemon juice and water over all.

Cover and bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) for 1 hr. Uncover for last half hour. Makes 5 servings.

Pineapple Apple Betty: Substitute 1 C diced pineapple for 2 C apples.

Join me at GroceryCartChallenge, DesignsbyGollum, LifeasMom and MomTrends for their Friday recipe swaps.


  1. Oh, how neat! I haven't thought about Apple Brown Betty in years, but that was one of my mother's favorites! Thank you so much for sharing the recipe with us.

    Happy Foodie Friday...


    Sheila :-)

  2. What a wonderful post. I loved your reviews of the old cookbooks. I'll be back often. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.