Discover Vintage America - APRIL 2017
Readers' 'Recipes & Stories' was a big hit
Back in 1988, when this publication was still a toddler, it was quite different, both in appearance and content. Local history was emphasized, including stories about individuals and museums working to keep history alive.
The "Recipes & Stories" books, published in 1988 and 1991 (Ken Weyand photos)
Betty Soper, leader of the Platte County Historical Society and genealogy enthusiast, contributed "Genealogy Queries," a column that invited reader participation and generated the kind of enthusiasm that Ancestry.com and other roots-searching groups tap into today. I will always be grateful to Betty for her generous contributions to my fledgling efforts at community journalism.
Francis Williams, who served as editor in the tiny publication's beginnings, wrote a column, "Over the Back Fence," under the penname "I.B. Millarkey." Filled with country humor and old-fashioned homilies, the column continued for several years, with many readers being unaware that Mr. Millarkey was not a real person. In fact, readers occasionally addressed letters to Millarkey, taking issue with one of the columns.
One of the early “Heritage Recipe” sections
Readers also contributed "Heirloom Recipes" in exchange for subscriptions. Most were local, with one notable exception. A pilot with Qantas, the Australian airline, picked up a copy of Discover left by a passenger and noticed the recipe column. He thought it would appeal to his cousin, a housewife in Alice Springs, a small town in Australia's Northern Territory. She contributed several recipes, which we gratefully accepted. Then it dawned on me how expensive it would be to mail her the paper each month. But I "bit the bullet" and was able to boast of our international readership.
In 1988, I compiled a soft-cover book that made use of the "Heirloom Recipes" and added articles from similar periods. Recipes & Stories of Early-Day Settlers was an immediate success. The book was offered as a subscription inducement and sold by mail through the paper.
The articles drew heavily from pieces contributed by several writers, including Dr. R.J. Felling, from Weston, MO, who researched early Platte County, and generously shared his findings with us. Another Platte County source was W.T. Paxton, a Platte City attorney who chronicled the county's early history in his 1897 Annals of Platte County, Missouri. Other contributors included Mildred F. Burns, who wrote of growing up in the early 1900s on a farm in northwest Missouri, and Betty Laverty, who recounted life in southern Platte County during the Depression days. Articles from Discover staff writers Francis Williams and Vera Haworth Eldridge also were used.
Although it's difficult to single out any one recipe, Carlene Hale, a member of Friends of Missouri Town 1855, contributed several that typified early 1800s cooking. Among others, "English Plum Pudding" originally appeared in the British publication Breakfast, Dinner & Tea, in 1859.
Inside pages of the first book, with an article by Mildred F. Burns
English Plum Pudding
Half a pound of beef suet, half a pound of raisins, half a pound of currants, one cup of sour milk, two-thirds teaspoon of saleratus (a pre-curser to baking soda), two eggs, half a nutmeg.
Stone and chop the raisins; the suet should be chopped very fine. Mix in sufficient flour. Some cooks prefer part breadcrumbs mixed with the flour to make it stiff as cake. Boil three hours.
For sauce, stir together one cup of sugar, half a cup of butter, teaspoon of flour. Thin it with a glass of cold water, boil two minutes. After the sauce is taken from the fire, flavor it with wine or brandy to your taste.
Previous to boiling your pudding, soak the pudding-bag in hot water, then cool it, turn it inside out, and dredge it thoroughly with flour. Pour in your pudding, tie it up tightly, leaving room for it to swell, and put it in boiling water. Keep the water boiling all the time. As it boils down, pour in more from the hot teakettle.
How to Cook a Skunk
F. Maxine Adams, from Fulton, MO, contributed what was certainly the most unusual recipe in
the book: "How to Cook a Skunk." She wrote: "When I was 12 or 13 years old I began to realize cooking could be fun. I wrote to my grandfather, then 81 and a Civil War vet in a home for veterans in Little Rock, AR, asking for ideas. Here's one
I've 'walked around' for years but could never try. I'm 68 now (in 1988) and don't expect I'll ever try it. Grandfather's letter to me (in his own words):
"I recall a feller worked for me sayin' of all the wild meat he ever ate, skunk was the sweetest meat. Now I was willing to take his word for it without provin' it. Me, I couldn't get past the
idea to try it. I reckon they ain't no reason why skunk meat shouldn't be as good as any.
"Skin clean, remove scent glands under front and hind legs. Put in strong salt water and boil for 20 minutes or so. Drain off this here water, add fresh and seasons: pepper, bay leaves, sage. Steam till tender. Larpen good eaten! Baked sweet tater & wild greens go good with yer skunk. "If you try it, let me know how it
In a few months, readers bought enough books
to cover the printing cost, and a second book
was published in 1991 under the title "Steamboat Adventures." It included stories that were related
to settlers making their way to homesteads in
the "West" by way of steamboats. Both books
are out of print, but future reprints remain a possibility.
Ken Weyand can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org Ken is self-publishing a series of non-fiction E-books. Go to www.smashwords.com and enter Ken Weyand in the search box.