Our Hardy Ancestors

AGB really is one of my ancestors.

AGB really is one of my ancestors.

The other day I got down “The Institute Cookbook” by Helen Cramp, to look for a particular apple jelly recipe that is, I think, in one of my grandmother’s cookbooks. Helen Cramp’s book was published in 1913, and Martha was born at the turn of the century, so it probably belonged to her stepmother. The recipe used maple syrup as the sweetener and I have so many crab apples this year (and almost nothing else) that I thought I’d give it a try.

The brittle pages are heavily notated. The neat cursive in brown ink is my great grandmother. She wrote long recipes from memory in the blank spots of the book, and commented on additional ingredients (may use 2 Cups of Rhubarb). My grandmother was born left-handed and forced to switch in school. Her cursive is more upright; larger and uneven. She checked off recipes in the index and made notes about doubling or tripling amounts (more Chili, less Marjoram).  She had four children and hired hands to feed.

The recipes are a testament to their lives. There are paragraphs on making cottage cheese from the time before pasturized milk, and an entire chapter on Meat Substitutes that would have been handy in 1913. Most of my family members still don’t eat tofu. A century ago they ate Baked Crackers with Cheese, Pimento Roast, Nut Souffle and Migas.

Now, I love migas. I learned to make migas from Milcolores and I have to tell you, they bear no resemblance at all to the migas in the Institute Cookbook. Well, I guess the same philosophy might run through both like an underground river, but I was highly amused by my kinfolk’s version.


Soak slices of stale bread and squeeze dry. Put olive oil or drippings in a frying pan and when boiling hot drop in an onion chopped fine, a little groundchili and a pinch of sweet marjoram. Lay the slices of bread in this with plenty of fresh cheese (preferrably goat cheese), finely broken,and fry for about ten minutes (my note – yikes!). Remove to a hot plate; cover with grated cheese, stoned ripe olives and chopped hard-boiled egg.

I may make a series from the book. Up next: Dried Beans Saute.

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