Friday, April 15, 2011

Old Home Remedies, Receipts and Wives' Tales in a Cookbook

***Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of North Carolina as they recover from the horrific damage done by the tornadoes this weekend***

Old Cookbook Review: Seems Like I Done it This-a-Way by Cleo Stiles Bryan

Sometimes I slog through cookbooks at a painstakingly slow pace, dreading the review that I have yet to write. Other times, the reading is a joy and the review seems to write itself! This is one of those fortunate weeks; this book goes on my favorites list! I got it in a thrift store in Oklahoma for $1.00....and it's worth every penny.
If you aren't sure that you would like some home remedies for croup, warts, a black eye (or how to get rid of a kidney infection!) mixed in with old family receipts (recipes) , retired Extension Home Economist, Cleo Stiles Bryan will make you a believer. Her unusual cookbook is called Seems Like I Done It This-A-Way. She came up with the title because her mamma, Mary Elizabeth Reed Stiles (who was all of 5 ft. 1 and 89 pounds!) reared 11 children and would reply this way when they asked for advice. A picture of "Mamma" is, of course, included in the back cover. I love writers who give credit where credit is due.
The author worked with homemakers and youth throughout counties of Oklahoma for 35 years as an Extension Home Economist. Her experience included world travels, as she also served as National President of the Extension Home Economists. In 1974, the U.S. Department of Agriculture selected her as one of 9 extension workers in the U.S. to receive the Superior Service Award. Not bad for one of 11 children born on a wheat and cotton farm 7 miles southwest of Snider, Oklahoma! If any of you have stories to share about this exceptional woman, please leave them in my comments. She spoke all over Oklahoma, the U.S. and in other countries, so I'll bet that some of you know about her. Please share!
When it comes to writing, Cleo Bryan is practical in her style. There are no pictures, just recipes, planting tips for your garden, remedies for sickness and potions to make for housekeeping and laundry. There are old receipts that she collected for years from friends she met through her work. Many of these recipes are written just as the person gave them (orally) and lend a special flavor to this delightful cookbook.
My signed copy of this book is the 2nd edition, printed in1980; the first edition was in 1976 (I would love to have it and will have to start searching this summer), and within the book, ladies are sharing 100- year-old recipes for gingerbread and plum puddings, etc. from their grandmothers. In fact, Ms. Cleo gives us her mamma's recipe for Poor Man's Pie in the pie section and tells us how her sister,Rea, fixes ham, in the meat section of the book.
If you like the feeling, as you read a cookbook, that your mom, grandma and sisters are at a table swapping advice and recipes with you...this is your book. The book doesn't give an ISBN, but an address for information on ordering the cookbook. If this is outdated, you might be able to get a copy through the Oklahoma Extension Agency. This address given in the back of my book is: Box 749, Tahlequah, OK 74464.

Our sample recipe is from page 217:

Old Fashioned Gingersnaps
Willie Mae Street, Memphis, Tenn.

2 1/4 C flour
1 tsp ginger
2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 C shortening
3/4 C sugar
1 egg, well-beaten
1/2 C molasses

Sift flour, measure, add cinnamon and ginger. Sift again. Cream shortening, add sugar gradually and beat until light. Add beaten egg and molasses. Dissolve soda in 2 tsp of hot water and add to the creamed mixture. Chill. Roll out on a lightly-floured board to 1/8 inch thickness, and cut with a round cookie cutter or gingerbread man-shaped cutter. Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. For a crackled surface, brush each cookie with water before baking. Makes about 6 dozen 2-inch cookies.

***Taste of Home Cooking School will be in Lawton, OK on May 10. Tickets are $12.00***


  1. looks yummy! I've never made ginger snaps before, but I might have to give it a try.

  2. Sounds delicious. thanks for sharing with Hearth and Soul blog hop.

  3. These sound yummy!

    Thanks for sharing with So Sweet Sundays! :)

  4. That was an interesting read. I love the title of the recipe book. Sounds like a wonderful cookbook to have for all kinds of reasons. Ginger snaps. Yum. Thanks, Jenn

  5. Hi Marcia,
    Oh I just love this one. Willie Mae from Memphis, don't you feel like you just know her at the end of that book. I can almost see her. Those cookies look delicious. Thank you so much for sharing these adventures with Full Plate Thursday and hope to see you next week! Have a wonderful week end!

  6. One of my favorite cookbooks is one from my Grandmother's Ladies church group in the 50's

  7. Wow, sounds like a fun cookbook. I always love the old community cookbooks, the recipes are so wonderful and I love the tips on getting out spots and whatnot as well :)

  8. Sounds perfect paired with a cup of tea after a rainy afternoon!

  9. i love, Love, LOVE gingersnaps. this recipe looks delish. thank you for sharing with tuesday night supper club.
    and thanks for the reminder to remember those in NC :)