Cookbooks a great way to brush up on history, cooking

The timing for this column seemed a perfect fit considering our country’s birthday is Friday.

But the idea for this column came a few years ago while visiting my parents. Dad asked if I had seen “The Congressional Club Cook Book” given to my mother by a former congressman and his wife.

What? Why didn’t I know about this? Well, back in the late ‘80s, my parents were visiting relatives in Wisconsin. My uncle did some work for California Rep. Al McCandless, who had a vacation home across the bay. McCandless’ wife talked about belonging to The Congressional Club, which had just come out with its 11th edition cookbook (1987). She promised Mom a copy.

After looking through Mom’s copy I did some research. The Congressional Club was formed in 1908, by an act of Congress for the wives of current and past congressmen, Supreme Court justices and Cabinet members. There was “Associate Membership” for daughters and daughters-in-law. The club’s goal was to help the women as they adjusted to life in Washington, D.C., through friendship and community service.

The cookbook was created — the first edition came out in 1927 — as a way to become a self-sustaining club.

During my research, I was connected with Tricia Lott, wife of former Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott. Tricia was a co-chair of the 2005, 14th edition of the cookbook. Along with information about the club, she gave me permission to include some recipes with this column. And, I now have a copy of the cookbook! It’s beautiful, has pictures of former and current (at the time) first ladies. It contains fascinating and fun-to-read historical tidbits and the forward was written by Laura Bush. The current cookbook states the club is now for the “spouses.”

My husband Fred and I were surprised to find that the cookbooks offered recipes for good old home-cooked favorites. There’s Snapper a la Mobile, Perry’s Dove, Fried Leek Garnish,  Mac and Cheese, Curried Goat and Girdle Buster Cake. There are a number of official party recipes as well.

These cookbooks are a fun way to catch some history, see some great photos and do a little cooking. For example, George Washington and James Monroe had their differences, but they were fine with their wives exchanging recipes. I wonder, was there was a cherry pie in that exchange?

Abraham Lincoln always had an apple and a glass of milk for lunch.

Dwight D. Eisenhower loved to cook and grill. He made tamales with his mom as a boy in Texas. Mamie Eisenhower had a kitchen put by their quarters for the “cook” to whip up his dishes. While president of Columbia University he created a vegetable soup that included nasturtiums. It was so popular, he wrote the 900 word recipe down for friends and colleagues.

Those interested in purchasing “The Congressional Club Cook Book,” should go to thecongressionalclub.com.

Meanwhile, I’m searching for some of the early editions of the cookbook. A cousin of mine from Illinois said he has a really old one that he will loan me, if he ever finds it. And if there is anyone out there who has a copy, let me know by emailing me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Girdle Buster cake

1 stick margarine, melted

1 box yellow cake mix

2 eggs

1 cup chopped pecans

Topping:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 pound box powdered sugar

1 egg

Mix margarine, cake mix, 2 eggs and nuts. Spread in greased 9x13-inch pan. Top with cream cheese, 1 egg and sugar mixed together. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Suitable for freezing.

 

Go to GJSentinel.com to view additional recipes.


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