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OP: Presbyterian Cook Book

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by Ladies of the First Presbyterian Church

A community cookbook by the Ladies of the First Presbyterian Church of Dayton, Ohio, this earnest collection is pure mid-American—homestyle recipes, contributed without pretense or sophistication.

Originally assembled in 1872 in an edition of just 500 copies, the book, according to its creators, “contained some errors and the arrangement was very imperfect.” However, it “met with such gratifying and unexpected success that the authors felt it their duty to revise and republish it.” 

This was accomplished with the subsequent edition, which appears to have been reprinted multiple times throughout the following years, and while still admitting to some imperfections, they offered this quite substantial collection of “safe and reliable recipes for the preparation of plain food.”

With more than 400 recipes, as well as many dozens of household hints, this is a highly useful and interesting inventory of American home cooking. A good proportion of the recipes are still well known in today’s kitchens, but there are also many discoveries to be made of favorites that have dropped from sight. We might mention sour milk waffles, sweet pickle peaches, flannel cakes, dried liver, wild plum catsup, green corn pudding, rice meringues, fricaséed peas, and spiced beef. 

The style is condensed, reflecting the assumption that everyone who watched their mother at work in the kitchen knew how everything was done. Want to make rye drop cakes? “To one pint of sour milk or buttermilk add three eggs, a small teaspoonful of soda, a little salt, and rye-meal sufficient to make a stiff batter; add the soda to the milk before the meal; then the yolks, and lastly the whites, well beaten. Bake in muffin-rings or drop on a griddle.” That’s all there is to it.

Our copy, an 1886 printing, had shown a fair amount of handling, so we had it recased in black cloth. The interior is generally unmarked, though stained in places, and one torn page repaired with tape by a previous owner. A pencil-written recipe for cornbread can be found on a rear flyleaf.

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