The Prudence Penny Regional Cookbook

A friend who knows my penchant for cookbook collecting recently gave me three vintage cookbooks! I have quite a few mid-20th century titles, including some that I’ve inherited from my husband’s late grandmother. I especially love the food photos, with their faded tints and utter lack of food styling as we know it.

The San Francisco Examiner Prudence Penny Binding of the United States Regional Cook Book is a prize find from 1953.

On the copyright page is a hand-written recipe for “Sausage out of Hamburger” and on the back flyleaf is one for “Pumpernickel Bread” as follows:
4 c Sunny Boy — Red River cereals (all or 1/2 + 1/2)
1/3 c molasses
2 1/2 c boiling H20
1 T salt

Put into bowl let sit for 1 hr.
Bake 300 degrees 1 hr.

That’s it! Just the kind of bread recipe you’d expect from someone who clearly knows how to make bread; they just need a reminder of ingredients. Inside are fascinating recipes for things like “Fisherman’s Johnnycake” (cornmeal cake batter spread on a flat board and placed upright before an open fire to cook); “Lady Baltimore Cake” (very popular at that time, with a filling of nuts, raisins, and candied fruits); and “Baked Abalone” with cracker crumbs and tomato juice. I just love to read these old recipes and learn what kinds of things people ate then and what ingredients they used. There was oleo rather than margarine and very few spices outside of salt, pepper, cayenne, and cinnamon.

Not only do I enjoy reading old cookbooks, but I sometimes cook from them as well. Where else would I find a recipe for abelskivers after a friend gave me a pan for my birthday? Or a steamed savory pudding to use that vintage mold I bought years ago? And you can’t beat them for great dessert recipes. I’m eyeing the “Tennessee Persimmon Cake” for later this year when my persimmon tree is full of fruit. In the Prudence Penny book, it says, “Gather Them After the First Frost, as the Mistletoe Begins to Whiten.)

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