The origins of this interesting community cookbook are—as is often the case with such compilations—far from clear. We do know that it was published by the “Ladies of the Main Street M.E. Church,” of Akron Ohio, and although it is referred to on the title page as “The Edition of 1893,” our research has not established that there ever was a predecessor volume.
Students of community cookbooks have noted instances of material having been selected from existing compendia, and then edited and customized to create a book for local residents. Such assemblages could not honestly be identified as true “first editions” and were therefore designated as “revised.” The book offered here may be that kind of pastiche, its title selected to note the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ landfall on Hispaniola.
The contributions are firmly middle American: straightforward, simple, unpretentious, and devoid of any hint of adventure—baked eggs, chicken pie, stewed codfish, stuffed baked tomatoes, popovers, doughnuts, ginger snaps.
The recipes are steadfastly pre-home economics in style. There are no carefully measured-out recipe lists, no excessive handholding, no superfluous reminders to core the apple, stir the sauce, or bake at precisely 325 degrees for exactly forty minutes. Just a lot of neighbors telling each other how they make veal chops or lemon pie.
The table of contents shows us a different time and a different place, not limited to the expected soups, salads, and poultry but also some less-common chapters devoted to such topics as fried cakes, jellies, oysters (in Ohio!), pickles, puddings, and ices.
And one of the bonuses here—great, great advertisements. There are a hundred of them—large, lavishly designed with engravings and fancy Victorian typography. They’re a delight to browse and are very much of their time and place.
We note at random: H.D.Tolley, who rents out bicycles and typewriters; J.F. Sieberling, who manufactures harvesters and binders for wheat farmers; Akron Air Blast Furnaces; The Collins Buggy Company; Ewart & Co’s Spanish Roofing Tiles; J.F. Arnold, “The Leading Meat Man in South End”; Funeral Director C.T. Parks, who offers a Lady Attendant and notes “Winding Sheets a Specialty’; The Brewster Coal Co. (“dealing in Bituminous and Anthracite”); and the B&O Railroad, running trains from Akron to Chicago “Directly to the World’s Fair Grounds.”
A clean, good looking, firmly bound book with a brown leather simulated cover and bright gold front stamping. Some edgeware and an excellent reinforcement of the spine. A very good find.