Pumpkin Crumble Cake (Oregon, 2006, adapted)

For a home cook I feel like I know my way around a kitchen.  But everyone’s got their blind spots, and mine is baking.  I don’t enjoy it and I’m not good at it, and despite a background in chemistry I’m especially bad at yeast breads.  I can’t even make a decent pizza crust (although……

Sour Cherry Pie (adapted from The Black Family Reunion Cookbook, 1991)

The Black Family Reunion Cookbook (1991) is one of the books in my collection that I’ve read cover to cover but have never done much cooking from.  It’s not that the recipes aren’t intriguing or delicious, it’s that the stories that accompany them are compelling and essential reading.    The titular “Black Family Reunion” is an……

Grandmother’s Ginger Nuts (adapted from Mennonite Community Cookbook, 1950)

The recipe in Mennonite Community Cookbook that I find most entertaining is Grandmother’s Ginger Nuts.   This book designates the recipe as “very old”, presumably from the late nineteenth century.   This recipe was submitted independently by two different women, once as Grandmother’s Ginger Nuts and another as Ginger Balls.   And while there’s some puerile entertainment……

Next Best Thing to Tom Selleck Cake (Wisconsin, 1980s, adapted)

Next Best Thing to Tom Selleck Cake is a genteel, Christian take on Better than Sex Cake, which was a randy fixture of otherwise staid cooking magazines in the late 1980s.  This recipe is adapted from a version I found in Country Favorites, andI imagine that the Cookbook Committee in St. Patrick’s Parish appreciated the……

Bananas and Cranberries (adapted from Old-Time Meatless Recipes, 1955)

The recipe that I’ve chosen to exemplify the spirit of Old-Time Meatless Recipes is a simple side dish of bananas and cranberries.  It is meant to accompany a luncheon menu of cheese rarebit (i.e. Welsh rabbit) and coffee.  As will be obvious from the ingredient list, it is not the tastiest nor most sophisticated recipe……

Apple Pudding Bread (Wisconsin, 1989, adapted)

Apple Pudding Bread is a spiced dessert bread recipe from Ascension Lutheran’s 1989 community cookbook.   The recipe’s author was a longtime member and mother of three.  She was an avid bridge player and teacher and her husband served in various lay leadership positions at the church.  In the recipe description she brags that Apple……

Potato Chip Cookies (Ohio, 1995, adapted)

Potato Chip Cookies are exactly what they sound like: a simple sugar cookie “seasoned” with a handful of crushed potato chips.  I have no personal nostalgia for these cookies; I first encountered them in a church cookbook from the mid-90s.  The recipe’s author was a homemaker from my grandmother’s generation, and this seems like a……

Grandma’s Cheesecake with Chocolate Sour Cream

I spend a lot of time reading cookbooks from communities and churches that I’ve never seen written by people that I never knew.  I’ll do some basic internet research to learn about the community and what it must have been like way back when, but it’s rarely possible to connect the dots completely.  Food can……

Cookies ‘N Fudge Salad (Wisconsin, 1988, adapted)

Cookies ‘N Fudge Salad is a throwback to the days a little bit of fruit made something a “salad”.   If the St. Casimir Catholic Church is anything like the churches I grew up in, this sort of so-sweet-it-hurts “salads” were a fixture of potlucks and multi-family get-togethers.  In some dusty corner of my brain I……