Wisconsin, around 1940

The High School Cookbook

The High School Cookbook was a “bonus” internet find, thrown into a box with a handful of other mid-Western church cookbooks.  It is slim and yellowed but surprisingly dense – there are around three hundred recipes, along with detailed guides to roasting meats, preparing candies and jellies, and canning fruits.  The interior design is quite professional, with recipes laid out in dual column format and ingredient lists in bold. 

Tracing its origins turned out to be a minor challenge – there is no copyright information or publication date.  The only real historical clues are contained on the front cover:  (1) Stevens Point, Wisconsin, (2) a simple black and white drawing of the high school, and (3) the credited author:  “compiled by Marie Zimmerli”.  

A little bit of internet detective work tells me that Marie Zimmerli was a home economics teacher at Stevens Point High School as early as 1920.  Her official title is sometimes listed as “Head of the Domestic Science Department”, which frankly sounds like something worth aspiring to.  I can find evidence of her continued employment in newspapers and city directories through the late 1930s. 

The drawing of the high school on the cover is distinctive. and doesn’t at all resemble the current home of Stevens Point Area High School.  It appears to be the P.J. Jacobs building, an impressive stone and brick building that’s now home to the junior high school.  The local newspaper points me to a short documentary on the P.J. Jacobs building, where I learned that it opened in 1938.

The only other historical clue I have is inferred from the recipes themselves, which are not the recipes of a country at war.  Sugar, milk, and meat are used plentifully and there are few recipes which require canned goods.  This may simply be that Ms. Zimmerli had a preference for fresh ingredients, but most World War II-era cookbooks at least make a passing mention to conserving sugar or other rationed staples. 

Sugar rationing in America began in 1942 and continued through 1947, at which point Ms. Zimmerli would have been at or nearing retirement age.  It’s possible that this book was published after the war, though the inclusion of recipes with names like “German Fried Potatoes” make this less likely.  My best guess based on the circumstances is that The High School Cookbook was published shortly after the opening of the P.J. Jacobs building in 1938, but before the implementation of sugar rationing in 1942. 

The Recipes

As mentioned above, the depth and breadth of The High School Cookbook is absolutely stunning for a community cookbook.  Ms. Zimmerli was a true professional, and the quality of the content demonstrate her facility as both a cook and a teacher.  

Selected Recipes

Beets in Sour Sauce

Evaporated Milk Salad Dressing

Filbert Torte

Ham Timbale

Refrigerator Ice Cream

Saccharin Pickles

Sea Foam