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Published: Tuesday, 6/8/2010

Inspired by cookbooks of the past

Ever since a reader requested a recipe for dill pickles that are preserved between slices of rye bread, I have been leafing through cookbooks to find such an unusual formula. The recipe never surfaced, but in the search it became very apparent that cookbook contents change with the years.

The Modern Priscilla Cookbook, published in 1928, emphasizes using basic common sense in cooking that we don't often see in new cookbooks. The book stresses the importance of accurate measurements and timing. The preface states, "Certainty in place of guessing eliminates failures and saves money." The Priscilla book also praises the ovens that were new at the time, compared to early models without temperature controls. "The time we used to spend near the stove to see how it is coming along is saved for something more profitable. A feeling of confidence takes considerable strain from a busy woman's mind."

Unusual recipes in the 82-year-old book include a whole roast pig, Martha Washington's fruitcake, molasses steamed pudding, ladyfingers, and fried mutton. Unlike new cookbooks, it does have an entire chapter on pickles and relishes, but not the rye bread dills.

Doggone Purrfect Recipes, published in 2009 as a fund-raising project by the Toledo Animal Shelter Auxiliary, is a good example of an upscale community cookbook that has some of the golden oldies mixed with new recipes for the way we cook and bake now.

Several appetizer recipes, a category missing in the 1928 cookbook, show today's more casual entertaining style. You will never find a recipe for Margarita Slush in an old cookbook, but it's in Doggone Purrfect Recipes, and so is Mexican Layered Dip, always welcome on an appetizer table. Just the title of the book reminds us that proceeds from the sale of the book go to help support the cats and dogs at the animal shelter.

If you have misplaced the old Watergate Salad recipe or John Pa's Original Hot Dog, they are included, and so is one for seven-layer cookies. It's almost time to make zucchini bread, and the one in the auxiliary cookbook uses only two cups of grated zucchini to make two loaves, so why not double it and have a loaf to give to the neighbors and one or two for the freezer?

But what about the dogs that benefit from auxiliary members' generosity and hard work? Yes, of course there is recipe for them. I have never seen a homemade recipe for cats.

The book is $10, plus $3.99 for shipping from the Toledo Animal Shelter Auxiliary, 640 Wyman St., Toledo, OH, 43609.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

Contact her at:mpowell@theblade.com

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