Tag Archives: cookbooks

Pass the Ambrosia! Memories of Cookbooks Linda Knight Seccaspina

Pass the Ambrosia! Memories of  Cookbooks Linda Knight Seccaspina
Photo is a typical Robin Hood Float that was in every local parade– this one was in Delta 1937)

Pass the Ambrosia! Memories of Cookbooks Linda Knight Seccaspina

Years ago before I went to California I had 100’s of cookbooks. My favourites were the church cookbooks from the local rummage sales and I have given away a lot–but today I still have about a 100 left. 

Remember the well worn coil- bound cookbooks put out by Canadian companies? I still have well-used copies of Robin Hood, Maple Leaf  and Red Rose which are probably museum items now. These little books are full of things our grandmothers used to make, such as dinner rolls, pickles, jams, jellies, and the beloved tomato aspic. 

By today’s standards some of the ingredients are not for healthy eating: canned soup, shortening, MSG and lots and lots of mayonnaise. But these books were especially big on baking and contained classic recipes for breads, cookies, squares, cakes, and especially pies. This is perhaps where their timelessness shines through for everyone.

The recipes from my vintage cookbooks are from times I still remember, and in the 50’s my mother used to make Tuna Pinwheels and Canned Devilled Ham Canapes for her canasta parties. Bernice Ethylene Crittenden Knight was a stickler for an attractive food presentation, and she also made something called Congealed Salad for holiday meals. A combination of Orange Jello, Cool Whip, crushed pineapple, and wait for it, shredded cheese. I think my Dad called it “Sawdust Salad” and I seriously tried to remain clueless as to why. 

I’m sure everyone has a family member that says they’ll bring a “salad” to a family dinner, but then they bring some Jello concoction they found in one of their cookbooks. Bonus points if it has marshmallows in it like the amazing Ambrosia Salad.  Actually, I feel more justified in calling anything a salad if I dump leftover taco beef and salsa onto a little lettuce topped with shredded cheese.

There are many loving memories of my grandmother baking on Saturdays. The old beige crock which held the flour under the cupboards — a hint of yeast — and the mixture of sweat pouring from her forehead. This mixture was placed in loaf pans, and if the day was bright the bread was set out in the sun to rise, otherwise the pans were placed near the big black wood stove which made the room toasty and cozy.

After the dough had risen to twice its size it was quickly placed in the oven. Making bread was only the beginning of the baking day– cakes, pies and cookies followed. There might be homemade applesauce for supper, toast for breakfast, bread pudding and the other delicious dishes which came from my grandmother’s magical kingdom. It was always homemade with love. That meant that I had sneaked the spoon out of the mixture and licked it and no one was the wiser when it was used again.  

The steamed brown bread baked in a can was certainly one of Grammy’s few baking tragedies. It was so horrible my Dad took my Grandmother’s failed recipe target shooting at the Cowansville dump. I would like to think that some of those rats got to feast on one of those brown breads. Of course, maybe after sampling it, they might have wanted to be put out of their misery.

The best is all those hundreds of recipes lovingly collected, saved from the newspapers or magazines, with notes written on the side. Finally assembled into cookbooks, the secrets were still not there. I remember writing down some of my Grandmother’s recipes and next time we made it she had changed the amount of pinches and methods on her recipes.

Despite living in a healthy society, or trying to, cookbooks seem to remain every bit as popular as romance novels and mysteries. Nostalgia triggers a story about our lives, helping us reflect on traditions and moments about the days when our  parents and grandparents were alive. That’s why we should never lose print recipes, and real paper-based cookbooks. 

Those mystery meat recipes, and foods that were the same colour as rainbow radiation will always resonate with us. That’s because we get to see and relive the gravy stained favourites, and the memories of family. If reading about cookbooks has you craving a big slice of cake, you’re not alone. I was always told if you can read you can cook. I can attest that my cooking is so fabulous that even the smoke alarm cheers me along from time to time.

Hazleton, Pennsylvania
18 Jul 1963, Thu  •  Page 22

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Pig Candy — Cooking With Chef Dr. Dusty from Ballygiblin’s

What was a Fowl Supper?

Was the Butter Tart Really Invented in Barrie, Ontario? Jaan Kolk Files

Hobos, Apple Pie, and the Depression–Tales from 569 South Street

Vintage Culinary Blogging –Fun to Cook Book

Author’s Note- This 47 page book of illustrations and recipes got me through a tramatic time in my childhood so I had to write about it. No little girl should be without one.

December 1, 1958.
Dear Diary,
Today I just got the “Fun to Cook Book” in the mail and I want to try each recipe. Margie Blake is Carnation Milk’s 10 year-old culinary star and I thought this book was very cute. My mother and I carefully collected six labels from the Carnation milk cans to order it and I will begin my cooking adventure tomorrow. My father just had to rush my mother to the hospital. She said she cannot feel her legs.

Image result for bernice knight seccaspina
December 8, 1958.
Dear Diary,
The 47 pages of this book have suddenly become part of my life. I found out today that Margie Blake is as real as Nancy Drew’s Carolyn Keene and that really sucked! My mother is back in the hospital for a long time, so Margie Blake’s imaginary family has become mine.

I close my eyes and dream that Margie’s mother Mary Blake is waiting for me in her blue dress and apron everyday when I come home from school. I made the meatloaf today all by myself and I know if Mary was really here she would have made me mashed potatoes too. But she wasn’t, so I just had canned peas and the peas looked as lonely on the plate as I am.

Image result for bernice knight seccaspina
December 10, 1958.
Dear Diary,
I loved the idea that my Carnation cookbook ‘family’ would make hot tomato soup on a cold winter’s night. They served it with delicious grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato slices on the side. I imagined that we would all sit down together at the dining room table and speak about cooking safety tips that Margie discussed in the cookbook.
Always turn that pot handles in and I remembered to do that as I made the soup tonight. My mother is going to have an operation on her spine tomorrow. I wish I could bring her tomato soup. Maybe that would make her feel better?
December 14, 1958.
Dear Diary,
My favourite page was the middle of the book with all the Carnation Milk pies. In my dreams Margie and I made a new one every day. I had a few mishaps with the Tropical Freeze and my scrambled eggs turned out a little dry, but I completed them. They operated on my mother yesterday and they still could not find out what was wrong with her. They are going to bring in the *world renowned specialist Dr. Gingras to the *Darlington Rehab Centre to see her. He is flying in to Montreal from Russia and is going to treat her like a guinea pig my father said.

December 20, 1958.
Dear Diary,
Saturday I brought over Margie’s recipe for Hot Cocoa to a friend’s house to make after a skating party. All of us sat warming ourselves in front of the fireplace while we stirred a large marshmallow in our cup of hot cocoa. It was delicious!  My friends asked about my mother and I began to cry. Even the Cocoa did not help and I left early.

Image result for bernice knight seccaspina
December 31, 1958.
Dear Diary,
Today I am making the very last recipe. It is Margie’s 1-2-3 Hot Fudge Sauce. My babysitter Janet is coming over tonight. She wears big skirts with a huge crinoline and wears pink lipstick. Her boyfriend looks like Fabian and he is coming over too. It’s 1-2 3 Hot Fudge Sauce for everyone with ice cream!

My father just told me they do not know what is wrong with my mother. He got angry, slammed the door and left and that is why Janet is coming over. I wish Margie Blake was real and could stay with me because I think my mother is never coming home.

Image result for robin nutbrown seccaspina
Photo Sheila Wallet Needham
                                                                       The End
Author’s Note
My mother, Bernice Ethylene Crittenden Knight died five years later in 1963 at 34 years old. Her death was listed as a heart attack as they had no idea what was wrong with her.

My mother was operated on, probed, tested for five years and never complained once. She never regained the feeling in her legs– yet never lost her smile

In 1997 when my sister Robin died at age 40 from cancer the doctors finally figured out that my mother had Lymphoma on the spine. In today’s day and age this disease is hard to detect as it was in my sister; so imagine the 50’s.

The Fun to Cook Book got me through hard times in life and I will always thank my imaginary friend Margie Blake from Carnation Milk. In my china cabinet are two  vintage Fun to Cook Books for each of my granddaughters when they get older. I hope the cookbook means that much to them as it did to me.

Notes from the Peanut Gallery:
One of my favorites of your posts- Kevin
“Never give up and focus on remaining abilities rather than on those lost.”
*Darlington Rehab Centre is now called: Montreal Gingras-Lindsay Rehabilitation Institute

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News

Stories about Bernice Ethelyne Crittenden my mother:

What Do You Do if You Just Can’t Walk Right In?

Albert Street Canasta Club Chilled Pineapple Dessert

Patriotic Stink Bugs Celebrating the 4th of July as an Ameri-Canadian Child