Teaser: When a mother-in-law or a mother passes to that great
kitchen in the sky, they have their own generations-old
cookbook collections. Therein is a problem. Such collections
have more than monetary value. They have sentimental values
for all concerned beneficiaries. Siblings inherit the stacks. How
those cookbooks are divided is this story. Keeper Neal Piek
knows the value of his cookbooks and recipes.
Authority: Depression Era Recipes
Retired, U. S. Air Force
During his 38 years in the military, Neal Piek, an aircraft
mechanic on lengthy missions around the world, survived
on food rations that made him want to make it home. Nestled between pallets of maintenance parts and tools
he was munching on government rations
and box lunches three at a time on long-mission propeller aircraft. He says
air base mess halls all had their own unreal flavors. Even restaurants
for extended stays were not too appealing to a gent thinking of home
cooking. When missions ended he looked
forward to his wife's home cooking. Eventually Piek in civilian life put
wife Mary's cookbook collection to use himself.
Piek proves there is a common thread among cookbook collectors.
In flight touchdowns, USA and abroad, he was attracted to cookbooks.
He picked up cookbooks, not the gothics or who-done-its. They are
now part of the family's cookbook shelves. Piek is now the chef
of the house. His culinary source repository actually dates back
generations. Make that almost a hundred years. The stash around
the home includes his mother-in-law's cookbooks and recipes. Some
date to 1911. She is his Wisconsin connection where the Piek
collection originated. And Wisconsin the state has a great recipe
About those recipes: "Oh, I have maybe a hundred thousand in the
basement." They're in folders, stuffed individually in cookbooks,
adrift on all home levels. His recipe attention for his wife's saves
is being better served. "I'm trying to replace the original 5-by-8
cards, putting the recipes into a family cookbook."
Piek has 50-plus cookbooks. His cookery magazines prove
he's a serious recipe collector. His most used are tattered
cookbooks published by Better Homes and Gardens. As
always with big presses churning out cookbooks for a changing
generation of users, Piek's favorite remains a first edition
Favorite Desserts. 1961. The frayed condition prompted him
to buy a later date...but he continues to flip the older pages.
One of Piek's valued Keepers is his 1794 book on grafting and
caring of fruit trees, a hand-me-down, of course. Part of Piek's
pride is heavily stamped Wisconsin...a 1930s Monroe County
cookbook. Noting that recipes "are only as good as the
ingredients," he continues to shop three states away for
familiar Penzey's Spices and product from Widmer's Cheese
Cellars, all that fit Wisconsin recipes from around 1911.
Wisconsin has a great history when it comes to good
cooking, survival cooking, a kinship to what has been
dubbed Depression cooking. Although it pre-dates
Herbert Hoover's four-year term as president (1929-1933),
The Settlement Cook Book, The Way to a Man's Heart, by
Lizzie Black Kander, was published in Milwaukee in 1901.
In 1947 the 28th edition was published and remains a
keeper for people who own one.
One of his prides is a 1918 edition of a Wisconsin cookbook that
should be updated. He says "it tells you how to survive
a depression...it gives advice on how to stretch what
food you have." He calls it "stretching recipes." There's
a timely name for his cookbook composed from those
scattered recipes in the basement.
Better Homes & Gardens Casserole Cook Book
Plus One-Dish Meals
Publisher: Meredith Corporation
Contents for the cover-mentioned One-Dish Meals
include cooking gear, casseroles, skillet meals, use of
leftovers and whole-meal sandwiches.
A runner-up in the Piek kitchen:
Our Favorite Desserts,
Favorite Recipes of Home Economic Teachers, 2nd Edition
Publisher: Recipes Press
c 1967; Reissue 2003
This book's collections comes from an important part of America's
cookery history. For too long higher education folk in academia
have sought to low-rent the title....home economic teachers.
The publisher has packaged in a ring binder more than 2,000
dessert faves in black and white photos, thus dating a great
era when most of our food was prepared and consumed in the