Algona Cookbook, Circa 1910: Part One

Once again I managed to scrounge up an ancient cookbook! This is by far my oldest dated cookbook and I was tickled to find the Algona Cook Book, circa 1910. Blue cloth covering the front and back covers, stapled-open spine, with cream-colored pages with black lettering and unknown font. Interspersed between recipes and “Order of Departments” lie timeless ads from various local businesses. In a word- FUN!

This recipe book couldn’t be bedtime reading material. Far too engaging and randomly humorous, I knew this cookbook was to be shared for light suppertime banter or relaxing moments toward the day’s end. My husband kindly entertains my lively reading and the guffaws that generally follow. I just can’t stop reading and enjoying gone-by-days when they all lived more focused on day-to-day living in the simplicity of time and the hard work of staying alive.

Most folks had a sincere grasp of their eternity and lived their best alongside their neighbor. Those days appear to be slipping fast into the abyss of the current “enlightenment” and society’s ever-growing and purposed “divisional” potholes. Just leaves me sad. So, when I find something that lightens a day, I share my book-bound joy with any listening ear. Well, to be honest… sometimes they become captives.

A trip back to 1910

As I opened the cover of the Algona Cook Book (I know “cookbook” is one word but grammar has evolved from the dictates of 1910 grammar) the Ladies of St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, Algona, Iowa give to you a collection of practical, tried recipes contributed by various Algona housekeepers.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Dewel and Clark, of Algona, IA, were the printers of this cookbook. Well before the days of the church cookbook committee madly typing out recipes on their old “Smith and Corona” using “white-out”, “correction tabs” or that special pencil and eraser and whisk type attachment at the other end of the pencil. If that’s not dating me, I don’t know what is!

Here is a lovely quote that stirs my heart and gives needed inspiration to those of us gals who “keep house”…

“And above all, let the women, pretty and plain, married and single, study the art of cookery. If you are an artist in the kitchen you will always be esteemed.”

-Elizabeth and Her German Garden.

How’d we get on the subject Elizabeth?

Now, perhaps you are curious as to who “Elizabeth” is, and what of “Elizabeth and Her German Garden“? This was a very popular book in 1886 and the first part of the 20th century. Elizabeth von Arnim was born Mary Annette Beauchamp. Living in Australia till she was three and then the family moved to England. Mary married a German Count and became a Countess. She lived on her husband’s family manor in Nassenheide, Pomerania.

The book “Elizabeth and Her German Garden” was about the main character “Elizabeth”, who gently made fun of her husband and others within the family. It details her efforts to develop a garden on the estate and the humorous mistakes she frequently made. Elizabeth wrote her book under a pseudonym as she didn’t feel her husband would look fondly on her commercial writing, much less her many satire referrals of her husband.

Her first husband Count Henning eventually died, leaving her with 5 children. She struck up a relationship with H. G. Wells which lasted three years and then finally she met and married Frank Russell, who was a brother of the philosopher Bertrand Russell.

Order of departments

Photo by Michele Bruxvoort

Order of departments was 1910 fancy talk for the “table of contents”. Just saying “order of departments” makes me feel like someone very proper and ordered was at the helm of the editorial committee. There wasn’t going to be any slack or lack of decorum.

Order Of Departments

  1. -Soups.
  2. -Fish.
  3. -Meats.
  4. -Vegetables.
  5. -Pickles, Preserves, and Jellies.
  6. -Salads.
  7. -Eggs.
  8. -Cheese Dishes. – (HELLO! Yes, please!)-M
  9. -Chafing Dish Reciepts. (Yes, that’s a typo somebody missed… Ooo, bet that ruffled Mrs. or Mr. proper and orderly)
  10. -Bread.
  11. -Sandwiches.
  12. -Doughnuts, Cookies, and Cakes.
  13. -Candies.
  14. -Beverages.
  15. -Ices and Ice Creams.
  16. -Scrap Basket. (This should be interesting)-M

Friends, I have come to the end of my allotted space for writing. Tune in next week as I begin to share some very interesting recipes and quaint old ads from the Algona Cook Book. Till then, here is to good food, good friends and a very good life.

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