Solving a local cookbook mystery

Published 8:57 am Friday, March 18, 2011

Column: Between the Corn Rows

From time to time I’ve had the opportunity to obtain some historical items from Tribune readers. In many situations these items will result in further research and hopefully a future column or article.

This was the situation a month or two ago when Shirley Tuttle of Albert Lea loaned me a rather unusual cookbook. This last comment is based on the fact that this particular publication had two ring binders and each loose page had two holes to match. I have a hunch this was a gimmick for a person to remove a page so one of the recipes could be used for a kitchen cooking project, or to loan a specific recipe to a friend or relative.

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The cookbook Mrs. Tuttle loaned me had the cover and the first few pages missing. However, there were ads with strong local connections and some familiar last names for the ladies who contributed their favorite recipes. There was also a strong indication this cookbook was sponsored by some local church group.

I checked with Linda Evenson at the Freeborn County Historical Museum Library to see if she was aware of a cookbook with loose pages held together with two ring binders. What she had in the museum’s archives was a complete cookbook issued by Ladies’ Aid of Albert Lea’s First Lutheran Church in 1925.

The preface of this book said:

“In issuing this book of recipes to the many friends of the First Lutheran Church, we have endeavored to the best of our ability to compile only such recipes as have been tried in our homes and found practical.

“We have tried to cover the whole field of cookery, including: Soups, salads, vegetables, fish, meats, candies, desserts, directions for preserving and canning (and several Norwegian recipes).

“We hope our efforts will be a real benefit to every housewife who has had good fortune of being the possessor of one of our books.

“We also want to thank all the women who have given their assistance of any kind in the work of compiling this book, as well as furnishing recipes.

“We only regret that owing to lack of space we were able to publish all material sent to us.

“We especially wish to extend thanks to the business men, who, by their liberal advertising, have financially made this book possible. …”

This 1925 cookbook also had a listing of those local firms and the pages where their ads could be found. Yet, I soon found out some of those ads and their page locations didn’t match up with the cookbook I acquired from Mrs. Tuttle. Still, the two cookbooks seemed to be all too familiar.

At this point I decided to visit First Lutheran Church to see if I could solve this mystery.

With the assistance of the Rev. John Holt, I found out there were two somewhat familiar cookbooks in a display case in one of the lower level rooms. And here’s where I solved the mystery.

The second collection of recipes, like the one now owned by Mrs. Tuttle, was also a cookbook issued by the Ladies’ Aid organization in 1926. I’m assuming now, after 86 years, that the first book was very popular. A decision was likely made to issue a second edition with the same loose page binder style to include some more recipes.

Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.