I love this cookbook.
I would guess that it was put together in the early 80s by the American Baptist Women of the Twenty-Sixth Street Baptist Church in Huntington, West Virginia.
My Gram is in her 90s. Lady Elsie May, we call her. Like the rose. She was born, I believe, in 1918. She was married and a mother during the Great Depression.She still attends the Twenty-Sixth Street Baptist Church, to which she drives herself every Sunday when she feels up to it and the weather is decent. She also goes to the church to quilt on Wednesdays. When I was a kid, sometimes she would take us to church with her on Sundays. I didn't understand the Baptist church. It was a lot different than the church we attended.
It was a rather modern building. Probably built in the 60s. They had these GIANT murals depicting different scenes from the Bible. And honestly, they had the most intimidating paintings of Jesus I had ever encountered. I think it was because they were so big. It was just GIANT Jesus. And every mural was painted in the same sleepy shades of blue and grey. Like it was perpetually overcast wherever Jesus went. That's what I remember about the Twenty-Sixth Street Baptist Church.
But the ladies of the Twenty-Sixth Street Baptist Church and this cookbook in particular played a very large part in the creation of the most important of all of my Life Rules: Never (and I mean Never) pass up church food. And the reason I made up this rule is in no small part because of women named Bessie Crispin and Betty Spears, who was one of my grandmother's dearest friends. Eunice Swann and Lula Dial. Beda Bennett and Goldie Hutchison. Country women.
Women who grew watching their daddies heading off to work in horse-drawn buggies. Virginia Graybeal. Ina Richardson. Farmer's wives, who called husbands in from the fields where they labored behind mules. Pansy Lester. Mildred Newman. Simple, Christian women with simple, Christian lives. I wonder how many of these ladies are still members of the church and how many are simply names on a family tree, remembered only on holidays by adults reminiscing
about holidays past.
In the early 80s, Gram was in her early 60s. My grandmother and these cookbook contributors are ladies who learned to cook in the days before fast food. Before microwaves. Before tv dinners even. Before the internet. Before the Food Network. Hell, before television. Before food processors and immersion blenders and fancy electric mixers. When bread was kneaded by hand because those were the best tools for the job. When eggs were collected from the chicken coop and not the refrigerated case at the Super Walmart. When refrigerators were called ice boxes. It was a different world. A different time. A different life.
And the recipes. Peanut butter cake with peanut butter frosting. Prune cake. Cabbage casserole. Rhubarb custard pie. Meatloaf. Baked steak. Cole slaw. Iced pickles. Delaware salad. Recipes from another time. Just as delicious today, though seldom remembered.
This is a cookbook to covet. One of my most prized possessions. It makes me smile every time I pick it up to make a memory from my childhood. The pages are stained from use. I think, just maybe, it's time I learned to make iced pickles.
I want to leave you with sage advice. Advice from the American Baptist Women of the Twenty-
Sixth Street Baptist Church.