It is possible that if we ever had hope to gain an understanding of the roots of American cookery, it might not, in fact, be a cookbook we’d turn to. Cooking came first; recipes and dutifully delivered instructions were a later development. And that cooking was by no means an isolated set of activities but rather an integral element in the way people conducted their lives. So it could be said that the proper medium in which to learn about food is, in fact, memoir.
These two volumes, published in 1936 and 1937 form such a memoir. Lived and written about by Michigan-born Della Thompson Lutes (1867–1942), they tell us about growing up in the 1870s—about daily life, about a family and a community, about the seasons and the customs and rituals that marked them, and much more.
Food was, without a doubt, at the center of all that went on, and these highly entertaining accounts describe liberally its role in church suppers, community fairs and picnics, and of course in the annual round of holidays. Food preparation, rather than prescribed, is described, giving it the kind of life no recipe can ever offer.