The Way to a Man’s Heart

The cookbook is a cluttered hodgepodge of printed and handwritten recipes alongside clippings from newspapers, an assortment of random trivia, and the occasional four-leaf clover. It was nearly lost when my Great Aunt put the cookbook and it’s accompanying bread bowl, in her yard sale for $1. Fortunately, my Grandmother picked it up, and gifted it to my Mother when she was about my age.

The origins of the cookbook were somewhat of a mystery in the family until earlier this year, when I happened to carefully peel up one clipping (a page of recipes for green corn), and found this: 

At the bottom of the same page is the date, 1891. The very next year, the new church was successfully built, and still stands today, a notable landmark in downtown Elmira, although it is now for sale.

The cookbook itself is a delight to thumb through, although nearly all of the bindings are broken, the cover acting as a sort of folder that holds in the loose pages. Bits of paper sometimes crumble off the edges of the pages, making me hold my breath as I go through. It is a treasure trove of recipes and family history. The book belonged to my great aunt Florence, and probably to her mother before her. It contains a recipe for “Mother McCann’s Lemon Pie” which almost certainly goes back to my 3rd-great grandmother, Helen. She was clearly a woman who took cooking (and everything else) very seriously:

My Great Aunt, age 6, and her Grandmother, Helen

So there you have it. This fascinating family cookbook has undergone quite the journey from its original form to its current state in my own kitchen. The pages and spine show their age, but in my opinion, that only enhances the epic cool factor.

Please browse the photos of the cookbook interior below, and try some of the recipes as I gradually add them.

Recipes:

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