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The Farmer's Wife Cookbook    edited by Martha Engstrom order for
Farmer's Wife Cookbook
by Martha Engstrom
Order:  USA  Can
Voyageur Press, 2003 (1996)
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Although originally published in 1996, the recipes for The Farmer's Wife Cookbook were submitted to the Farmer's Wife monthly magazine and published from 1893 to 1939. So, many of the recipes are over a century old. Though they have all been updated for the modern kitchen, they should taste the same as they did back in Grandma's day.

The Farmer's Wife Cookbook is peppered with charming old black and white photos and drawings from the magazine. I turned the pages with nostalgia, remembering the summer I spent as a child on my aunt and uncle's farm in upper New York State. Like most good meals, the cookbook begins with First Courses and Soups. The Corn Chowder did it for me. Love that stuff. A segment on choosing a refrigerator was fun to read. Of course it's not applicable today, but the pages give us a chance to reflect on how far refrigeration, something we all take for granted, has come.

Beverages include Whey Lemonade. Not sure what whey is in this context, but I'm willing to try it. Peanut Butter Bread caught my eye, as did Oatmeal Bread. The recipe for Swiss Steak reminded me of my favorite meal when I was a kid - Swiss Steak cooked with sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions. Good! Living in Pennsylvania, I like Scrapple, and even the pig's head and pig's feet and hocks didn't put me off the recipe. All manner of meats are presented in this cookbook, but I have to admit that Liver Patties and Liver Loaf wouldn't be on my table. Tuna Fish Pudding intrigues me, though.

Now we're cookin'. Vegetables - Asparagus and Eggs; Baked Lima Beans; Scalloped Tomatoes; Scalloped and Au Gratin Potatoes. Puffy Omelet appeals. Ah, I remember my mother's Indian Pudding. And that all-time favorite, Baked Macaroni with Cheese. Nirvana. Knowing how I feel about peanut butter, I just know I'll have to try the Peanut Butter Dressing for salads. Again, I remember my mother making her own mayonnaise from the recipe her mother used. And here it is – just as Mother made it.

This cookbook is sending me back in time. I remember mother making Bavarian Cream. Delicious. And English Plum Pudding was always a staple on our Christmas dinner table, sloshed with lemon sauce and topped with hard sauce. Wonderful. I've tried to duplicate Mother's Rice Pudding but never could quite get it right. Maybe this recipe will make the difference. And Brown Betty was always a way to use up apples that were a tiny bit on the too ripe side. Cakes, Cookies and all sorts of sweets are something I should avoid, but these recipes make it hard. Mother made wonderful cakes, but her pies left something to be desired. She probably needed this cookbook then.

The Farmer's Wife Cookbook is a lovely volume with ring binding to lie flat when in use. Please make use of it. I must end this with a song to be sung at canning time – circa 1912, lifted right from the pages of the cookbook:

'Sing a song of
Sweetness everywhere;
Sugar, spice and all
Things nice
Scenting all the air.
Pickles, butter, jelly, jam
Load the cellar shelves;
Aren’t we proud to
Know that we
Made 'em all ourselves.

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