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Let’s Cook: People and recipes

AP Photo This week features recipes for Shrimp Noodle Casserole and Grape Salad.

What a lovely party. First to arrive were Dorothy Harding, Esther Kling, Jean Stroud and Hazel Solemsaas — all sporting smartly different and attractive summer outfits. Next to join the gathering were Linda Wade, Bea Hendershot and Betty Aga. You should have seen the flattering deep cape collar dress that Linda wore — the fabric featured lovely lemons.

Martha Neff, Jean Quam, Linda Hyatt, Maxine Ames and Eulalie Allen were present too! Arlene Saugstad, Thelma Vassar, Florence McCulloch and Gerda Cady arrived in sunny day fashions that featured colorful, casual cottons and the handy “carry all” pockets for the busy summer cook.

How many of you can become totally enthralled with a stack of cookbooks? Three is my limit when choosing books for a bedtime read because the hours pass like minutes. Before I know it, the clock is striking 1 a.m.!

Recently with much stay-at-home time, sorting through mountains of cookbooks has been a regular enjoyment. This past weekend with my eyes closed, I dove deep into a storage box, fished around, and came out with two cookbooks. In my left hand was the Vincent United Methodist Cookbook, Minot, from 1984, and in my right-hand was the Maine’s Jubilee Cookbook published for Maine’s Sesquicentennial Year in 1970.

Now you know – the party I attended was through reading Vincent United’s cookbook — with a little added creativity! This book captures not only great recipes, but the way the Vincent United was back in 1984. Some of these members are no longer with us, but recalling their names brings back memories and the fine taste that they featured in their homes around the table and at church gatherings.

Coordinating church members and good recipes is a long tradition across America. Early settlers who attended church quickly became acquainted with each other and often shared a meal. This was prior to magazines, radio, TV and Google. When church members were giving of their prized recipes, it was the perfect opportunity to incorporate them into a book. I am sure cooking on the open prairie with limited supplies could be a bit of a tightrope to walk. However, with tried and true recipes from friends, the task of making tasty meals became much easier. Another benefit of using a recipe from a pal includes the fact of having the chance to ask the person directly should you have a question about the directions or ingredients.

The urge to seek out a unique recipe is undoubtedly stronger when one is away from their home. So was the case when I lived out east in Massachusetts. Opportunity to travel to Maine was always enjoyable, and it was during these jaunts that I picked up several cookbooks relating to history of cooking in Maine. Just as the history to food in North Dakota is tied to the prairie, the sea was perhaps the first evidence of food for Mainers. Included in their landscape for food would be also the bays, inlets and islands along the coast that are known for their shellfish.

The featured Maine cookbook here has a unique front cover that features the family hearth complete with hanging cast iron cookware, and early American furniture. When the cookbook is turned over the back cover features a modern kitchen from the 1970’s. This cookbook features not only generations of good eating but generations of kitchen updates to aid the cook and family.

The obsessed always want more, and this is particularly true to the collectors of cookbooks. We like to prowl rummage sales, shops and auction sales in pursuit of rare, unique and fun cookbooks. Yes, we could go online and shop, but the experience is not nearly as satisfying. Another joy of owning a used cookbook is the chance to see the handwritten recipes that were written quickly into the front or back. Both featured cookbooks have lots of writing in them including such things as “try this recipe” “excellent make again” and “do not use ever!” Both secondhand cookbooks – even though they are miles apart in origin – have chocolate icing recipes written in the covers!

Many of the recipes that I treasure came from family and friends. This proves that we never own a recipe. We are merely taking care of it or perfecting it for the next generation. It is a gift to be able to hold in your hand a cookbook that is well-worn, a cookbook with names you recall, or a cookbook with smudges of chocolate and blotches of oil. It is a priceless treasure. Look at it closely. The history of it will tug at your heart knowing that these recipes were not only treasured but made with love for family and gathered friends. Though years may come and years may go, treasured recipes and the joys of entertaining family and friends related to these culinary gems never depart when recipes are passed along.

Shrimp Noodle Casserole

Submitted by Mrs. Percy Van Note, Saint George, Maine. Here is a recipe that will give your table something different to try. We paired it with a lettuce salad.

1 can of cream chicken soup

1 12 oz. can evaporated milk plus 3/4 water

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sherry cooking wine

1 6 oz. can shrimp

1 8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts

8 oz. medium noodles, cooked and drained

1 cup chopped celery, cooked and drained

1/2 cup crushed potato chips

Dill weed for garnish

Cook noodles and celery, drain. Combine soup, evaporated milk, water, cheese, mayonnaise, and salt. Blend in wine; add shrimp, water chestnuts, noodles and celery. Put in a casserole and back uncovered for 25 minutes, at 350 degrees. Sprinkle crushed potato chips on top and add dill weed and back another 10 minutes.

Grape Salad

Submitted by Gerda Cady

Juice of 3 oranges

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 c. sugar

3 T. cornstarch

3 well-beaten eggs

2 lbs. green and or red grapes

2 small cans pineapple tidbits

Small marshmallows

1/2 c. cream, whipped

Combine first 5 ingredients. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Cool top room temperature. Add grapes, well-drained pineapple and marshmallows. Add whipped cream. Chill in pan or mold. This will keep well in refrigerator for several days.

This salad works well for breakfast brunch, too, as the fruit pairs especially well with eggs. When grapes are in season and shining like jewels, make this!

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