We’ve inherited a well-worn volume of The IngleNook Cook Book, circa 1911 (ours is black and white). The book belonged to my husband’s grandmother, then his mother, now us. She’s still living but, sadly, suffers from dementia. Every blank spot on these dog-eared pages are inked in with faded recipes for everything, including croup. The ones written in pencil are almost beyond deciphering, and the book is full of jottings on yellowed scraps of paper. Originally compiled by Old Order Brethren women, similar to Old Order Mennonite and Amish, each recipe is attributed to sister so and so. My DH’s family is Mennonite and some of his relatives still drive horse and buggies. There are various orders of Mennonites, old, new, and many in between, I discovered when I married into these people. But back to the book. It’s a record of how women went about their daily lives, a compilation of their history, what mattered to them, their story.
Many recipes use measurements such as ‘butter the size of an egg’ or lard the size of a walnut’ and suggest you let the baked beans, or some such dish, simmer while you make bread, visit after church, or fix the family breakfast because everyone knew about how long that took.
Within its pages are old-time cures. For chest congestion, make a salve of melted lard and camphor to rub on, or a mustard plaster, and cover with flannel. For croup in infants and small children, apply a milder camphor salve, or give equal parts of butter and honey melted together by mouth. Another remedy for croup is to slice onions very thin and sprinkle with sugar. Allow to dissolve and give the juice in teaspoonfuls frequently. This is from The Shenandoah Valley, I noted. My home base. (Old Order Mennonite Woman and baby outside the church up the road. Image by hubby. Also the one below.)
An interesting treatment for sore throat. Slice a thin piece of bacon (the assumption being that you have a hunk of your own from hog butchering which my husband remembers his family doing) and stitch this to a piece of flannel and make it black with pepper. Warm it and fasten closely around the throat. Do not remove until inflammation has been drawn to the outside. When the meat is removed, anoint throat with Vaseline and bind up in flannel until you are well. It doesn’t say what to do if you never are, but there are other treatment options.
Highly evident from all the added recipes and those heavily used in the book is that my mother-in-law, her mother, their friends and relations, loved cake. Given the hard work these country people knew, not to mention suffering through the Great Depression, a delicious freshly baked cake was a rare treat.
A Cake Recipe from (I don’t know how many ‘Greats’) Aunt Leona:
2 cups sugar, 3 eggs, 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup sweet milk, and one level Tablespoon of (I’m not sure of what). Dissolve in milk, 3 blocks of chocolate. Stir in 1/2 cup extra milk (for large cake) and cook, let cool. Got that? This is the way many recipes read. You’re just supposed to know stuff.
I love this book and the added notes, a wonderful glimpse into the past. The generations roll on, but with the awareness of those who’ve gone before them. My oldest daughter is also fascinated by this book, and my youngest grandbaby, Chloe, sat beside me as we perused its pages.
Chloe in my flower bed, image by daughter Elise. My garden and flower beds used to be my mother-in-laws. I am the caretaker now, until whoever comes after me. I hope they carry on our living legacy.