Love Local Cookbooks?

I’m guessing that every household has a spiral-bound cookbook filled with recipes from local cooks. Gail Lee Martin collected some of these and wrote about them for the Butler County Historical Society in Kansas. She submitted the research to their annual history essay contest in 2001 and received honorable mention for it. She donated 7 cookbooks to the museum’s collection. She also contributed her recipes to a number of  local cookbooks that came out after this article.

Hometown Sharing

Through the past hundred years, local cooks have shared their favorite recipes with friends and neighbors in many ways. Reunions, church suppers, picnics, fish fries, ice-cream socials, birthdays, weddings, Sunday dinners, and every occasion that could get a group of people together. The theory being, if you invite them to come eat good food they will show up at your meetings or events.

By early 1900 organizations around the town began to get on the bandwagon of publishing cookbooks as fund-raisers. Churches, businesses, schools, grocery stores, even radio stations discovered the fun of compiling favorite recipes from their members into a cookbook for sale.

So the call went out to all cooks in their organization to submit their favorites recipes. Catchy titles were sought to encourage sales. Some of the more interesting ones I found were: Meat Recipe RallyCountry Cooking; Regal Recipes, and the Partyline Cookbooks to name just a few.

The cookbooks reveal much more about the community than just the cooks and recipes. Local advertising was found here and there in the books to tell of businesses, some that are still here and others that have faded to just memories. The Meat Recipe Rally by Joe Browne’s Market advertises Joe’s own Hickory Smoked Sliced Bacon and Hams and Open Kettle Pure Lard. In the 1959 El Dorado City Directory Joe’s Market is listed as “ Browne’s Market, the complete food store since 1905.” The Market stayed on the same downtown corner of 200 W. Central until 1973.

In The Art of cooking in El Dorado, a Senior Citizens of El Dorado cookbook, Walnut Valley Bank and Trust listed their advertisement this way. Recipe For Financial Service. Take instant mix of Walnut Valley people, know-how, and concern . . .AND JUST ADD YOU!” Their ad certainly fit the book‘s theme.

The El Dorado Senior Center celebrated their 10th anniversary in September 1985. Around that time the cookbook was planned and Cathlin Buffum was director of the center and contributed a handful of recipes herself. Other businesses contributing their ad’s to the senior’s project were El Dorado Cable; Mc Cartney Pharmacy; PT Machine & Welding; Farmer’s Insurance; Arlene’s Beauty Shop; Castle of Lighting; Flavor Maid Do-nuts; AAA; Best’s Cleaners and Dale’s Service.

cookbooks with Gail's recipes

Family and community cookbooks that have Gail Martin’s recipes included.

In the late seventies and early eighties, the area radio station KOYY Kountry had a listener participation program called Partyline. Many recipes were shared in this morning phone-in style get together. In 1979 Partyline hostess, Jean Plummer compiled the many recipes that had flooded her office and published the first Partyline Cookbook . Two years later, when Connie Phillips was serving as hostess, the second edition of the Partyline Cookbook was published by popular demand. Together, young and old, men and women filled these cookbooks with their best cooking efforts.

A 1982 ‘Benton Community’ project producing a Country Cooking cookbook went all out with ten pages of advertisers, two full pages listing their supporters, some community history dating back to 1913, local artwork by Jo Bell for a drawing of a windmill and surrounding countryside for the cover and a unique list of what you could buy from the grocery store for a $1.00 in 1931, all from a small town of around 600 residents. Many contributors were Benton High School alumni from the 1920’s; Benton Busy Bee’s 4-H members; Girl and Boy Scouts, the Lions Club; Golden Agers; Jaycees Jaynes and Tops members.

El Dorado is the home to many churches and these churches have many church dinners. Food in every available form is brought. Everyone wants to take their best. As they taste tested their way through the many varieties, the women begin asking “Who brought this or that dish, and then ask would you share your recipe, it tasted wonderful.” This is one reason almost every church in the county has at one time or another put out a cookbook.

The United Methodist Church has been publishing cookbooks since the turn of the century. The recipes of a 1909 cookbook, Regal Recipes, were collected and arranged by the Kings Daughters of the Methodist Episcopal and is being preserved at the Butler County Historical Society Museum. This same group put out another book in 1924 with additions of new recipes from Circle One of the Methodist Ladies Aid. The women of this church but probably another generation or two published again in 1985 and the current one of 1996, Lord’s Acre Cookbook, Naomi Circle is still available. In the miscellaneous section is a neat saying, “Happiness is like jam. You can’t spread a little without getting a little on yourself.” Recipes in this segment include Homemade Apple Butter, Easy Grape Jelly, and Jalapeno Jelly.

The Towanda United Methodist Church of Christ published a Tribute to Our Past, Our Joy For Today, The Hope For Tomorrow 1885-1985. Some of the other cookbooks from their past were known to have been in 1907, 1924, and 1979.

The Christian Women’s Fellowship groups of Potwin and El Dorado compiled cookbooks in the 1980s. Potwin put out a cookbook in 1981 and titled it, Favorites Recipes From Our Best Cooks. They included a picture of their lovely brick church and a schedule of their Sunday School and Morning Worship services. The El Dorado women came out with a small handmade booklet in November 1983. With checkered oilcloth covers. The Young Women’s Group of the First Christian Church of El Dorado put out a three-ring notebook size cookbook in October 1986 to coincide with their fall money-making event, a luncheon, and craft fair.

Starting in 2005 the original El Dorado Farmer’s Market is planning a garden cookbook. So Butler County’s food sharing tradition just keeps going.


Chocolate Topped Rice Krispie Bars

Back in 2011, I asked Mom (Gail Lee Martin) to send me some recipes that I could put online for her. Here’s one she sent me:

“It is time to take the plain Rice Krispie bar recipe to the next level. Even though Rice Krispie bars are delicious, these chocolate-covered Rice Krispie bars are one step above delicious.

Rice Krispie bars are easy to make but these are easier than ever. With the use of the microwave, this is a quick bar recipe.”

Chocolate Topped Rice Krispie Bars

Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:

1 cup sugar

1 cup Karo syrup

1 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

6 cups Rice Krispies cereal

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1 cup butterscotch chips

9″ x 13″ pan

Pour the Rice Krispies into the 9″ x 13″ dish. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and the Karo syrup. Bring it to a boil, stirring frequently.

Take the pan off the heat and add the peanut butter to the mixture. Stir until smooth. Pour mixture over Rice Krispies and mix. Spread the mixture to fill the 9″ x 13″ pan evenly.

Put both the chocolate chips and the butterscotch chips into a microwave safe bowl together. Place it in the microwave, and heat on high for one minute. Stir the mixture and continue heating at 30-second intervals until all chips are melted. Pour over the bars to cover evenly.

I looked around online and didn’t find the exact recipe, so not sure where Mom discovered it. Most of the recipes used a double-boiler to melt the chocolate chips. I like the quick, microwave method she put in the recipe.

I don’t remember Mom making Rice Krispie bars for us when we were kids. We used to get our peanut butter in a small metal bucket that weighed 5 pounds. The oil would rise to the top, so you had to stir the peanut butter up before using it.

Dress up rice krispie bars with peanut butter and chocolate chips.

Shedd’s peanut butter tin bucket from the 1950s

Store Bought Cookies

Gail’s daughter, Virginia, shares a yummy food memory.

Mom sometimes brought home some packaged cookies from the store. Sure, we loved her oatmeal raisin cookies, sugar cookies, and snickerdoodles, but it was a treat to have Fig Newtons or Vanilla Wafers for a change. One that I really liked was called Devil’s Food Cookie. It had a cookie textured center with a solid coating of chocolate around it. Yum!

Retro Grocery Check-out Pantry Party Stock Kitchen Card

Retro Grocery Check-out Card

by nostalgicjourney

We could even turn graham crackers into a cookie by spreading icing on it and sticking two squares together. Do people still do that? If so, I bet they use the containers of pre-made frosting. We would mix powdered sugar icing to spread on the graham crackers. Vanilla wafers benefited from some icing and we could stick them together for a sandwich cookie effect.

Many people have fond memories of chocolate Oreos. I wasn’t a big fan of Oreos, but I’d pull them apart to eat the icing. The cookie part wasn’t that tasty to me. I remember vanilla flavored cookies shaped like Oreos and having icing in the middle. I liked those better.

When we had homemade ice cream, Mom would get those slim, rectangular waffle cookies that came in pink and cream and chocolate. They had icing in the center, I think. What were those called?

Of course, we had animal crackers now and then. The box was most appealing with the circus animals and the bright colors. Inside were the fairly tasteless, but interestingly-shaped lions and elephants to munch.

Tell me about your favorite store-bought cookies from childhood.

Make Corn Cob Jelly

This vintage recipe was passed down from my husband’s ancestor, Mary Black of Blackjack, Kansas. It’s amazing what you can turn into jelly. Here’s how to make corn cob jelly the old-fashioned way.

What You Need:

12 red, clean corn cobs                             3 pints of water

3 1/2 cups of sugar                                     Package of Sure-Jell

Wax to seal the top of the jar                  Jelly Jars


corn cob pixabay

Remove the corn from the cob. (photo courtesy of Pixabay)



To get corn cobs, you remove the dried corn from the cob. Boil the twelve red, clean corn cobs in three pints of water for half an hour. Mary Black would have boiled these on an old cast-iron stove, but you can use a regular stove.

Strain the juice (and throw away the corn cobs). It makes 3 1/2 cups of corn cob juice.

Use Domino or any sugar. Add the 3 1/2 cups of sugar to the juice made from the corn cobs.

Follow the directions on the Sure-Jell package. She would put wax on top to seal the jelly. If you’re going to use it fairly soon, you can keep it in your refrigerator.

This recipe is from Mary Black, (of Black Jack, Kansas) granddaughter of the earliest doctor there, Moses O’Neil. Dr. O’Neil’s wife, Eleanor (called Ellen) O’Neil was a sister to our great-grandmother, Elizabeth Jane (Rosebaugh) Kennedy. (wife of David Greacen Kennedy, my husband’s great grandfather).

oneil line mary black.png


Another Blogger in the Family

Gail’s granddaughter, Diana Hyle started a blog about cooking. It’s called Lick the Beater which immediately brought to mind my mother, Gail Lee Martin, making a cake with her Mixmaster. Of course, we all wanted to lick the beaters after she finished pouring the batter into the pans.

Here’s what one post looks like. Isn’t that tempting!

Lick the Beater diana's blog

Diana is a librarian, so baking is not her main job, just her passion. She brings to her blog lots of tempting photos to illustrate the steps in the recipe. Along with that, she infuses the blog with a breezy wit that reminds me of her mother and with down-home descriptions that remind me of her grandmother’s writing.

This is not just a recipe blog, it has lots of personality and storytelling to entertain the reader along with all the information you’ll need to create some of these challenging projects yourself.

Sample a few of the posts, and see for yourself what a fun blog, Lick the Beaters is. You’ll enjoy On Your Mark, Get Set, Bake or try the Cheery Cherry Cake.

Try not to salivate on your keyboard as you read her tempting descriptions and view photos of the luscious results of her baking.

Photo of mixer beaters and whipped cream courtesy of Pixabay

Lovers of good food will love the blog:


Picking Sandhill Plums

Cynthia Ross sparked some nostalgia with this email, “I remember the times spent picking sandhill plums with Larry, his mom and dad, Nora and Silas Ross, while in Oklahoma. It seemed like easy picking along the side roads or in the pastures. But we had to keep an eye out for the rattlesnakes and a curious steer or two. We took our share of the plums back to my folks, Gail and Clyde Martin, who canned them for jelly. They made great Christmas gifts several years in a row. Love the sweet flavor of those sandhill plums! I know our parents believed in the saying, “Waste not, want not!”

sandhill plums FB photo

Sandhill plums – Photo courtesy of June Seimears Ary.

There was a great article in the Wichita Eagle back in 2014, but it has disappeared from their online site. I finally tracked it down with the Wayback Machine. You can read it at Sandhill Treat Is Plum Full of Taste, Memories.

Mom made the jelly a number of times, but I didn’t find what recipe she used. Probably one from the Ball canning booklet. Here’s a very detailed recipe in the Everyday Home Cook for sandhill plum jelly. If you can find the plums, go ahead and give it a try.

Vintage Pressure Cooker Booklets

There’s a trend right now to add an Instant-Pot to our kitchen appliances. They are electric and programmable. Big marketing is pushing the trend, but basically, it’s a pressure cooker. Cooks used them a lot for canning or for quick cooking to tenderize tougher meats.
My sister ended up with Mom’s collection of vintage pressure cooker manuals after she passed away in 2014.  Gail and Clyde had multiple pressure cookers that they used for canning produce from their large garden, but those were sold at auction.  “I hope whoever bought them gets them checked out for safety at the local extension office!” remarked my sister.
pressure cooker books kk

Vintage pressure cooker booklets collected by Gail and Clyde Martin. Photo by Karen Kolavalli.

“I took some photos because I think they’re pretty cool!  They range in date from 1946 to 1972 and include Presto, Wear-Ever, Mirro-Matic and Montgomery Ward’s.  There’s even a hardcover Mirro Cook Book (1954, 4th Edition) with a chapter on pressure cooking.  These books are well-worn (to say the least!), but fun to have and look through—a veritable history of American mid-century pressure cookers.  Karen”
pressure cooker 1 Presto 1946 PC Manual

pressure cooker 2 Presto 1946 PC Manual_endpapers
Here’s one of their pressure cookers. It’s pretty vintage too, but they still canned with it. Even into their eighties, they were still canning.
2008-08-20 gail and ks photos 018