Tucked away in an antique family cookbook are treasures that may not tell the story of our Smith ancestors or even seem important enough to save for a century and more, but the little keepsake scraps of paper pressed between the pages of an 1892 edition of "Everyday Cook Book and Cyclopedia of Practical Recipes" do provide some special ingredients for the imagination.
As a child of the "modern" Betty Crocker era, I recall my Grandma Smith allowing me to leaf through the yellowed, brittle pages of this old-fashioned book, amazed by the industry of its author Miss E. Neil, who carefully compiled recipes and advice for the practical, turn-of-the-century homemaker. In addition to traditional recipes for preparing all manner of vegetables, meats, and bakery, Miss Neil provided a compendium of helpful advice including (my favorite) a quaint miscellany section that catalogs tips on such quintessential topics as: "to make hens lay in winter" (hint: it includes the use of Cayenne pepper), "to keep off mosquitoes" (hint: kerosene applied directly to the skin), and "cleaning lace" (hint: rubbing it with dry flour.) The everyday homemaker could also refer to this section for advice on topics ranging from toothaches to tapeworm and even health and beauty secrets (hint: "High-Heeled Boots Must Go") But I digress...
"Received of W. R. Smith, 1 pa[ckage or parcel] said to contain [merchandise] and represented to be of the value of 'asked & not given' dollars, and marked Sears Roebuck & Co., Chicago Ills."
|Lillie May, Emma, Grace and William R.|
It doesn't take much detective work to see that my great grandfather was doing some last-minute work for Santa Claus! The fact that this receipt was not just saved but evidently treasured, attests to the possibility that this package was a special Christmas surprise for his family. In 1902 Great-grandfather Smith was 50 years old; his wife, 42. Although they had two grown daughters, Grace (24) and Lillie (22), a special holiday was being planned for the young members of the family, too. In 1902, sons William Ray was 9 and my grandfather L. Vern was only five years old. Little Nina and Edna Pearl (Grace's daughter) were 3 and 4. (photo at left probably taken ten years earlier)
Also lovingly preserved in the "Everyday Cook Book" is the crumbling recipe for what appears to be a Christmas Pudding. Although I don't recognize the handwriting, I'd like to think it was my Great-grandmother Smith's special recipe for the holidays. (The "5 penny loaf" and raisins with seeds suggest a very old recipe!) Another reasonable possibility is that the recipe was adapted through the Smith generations since William's father Ishmael emigrated from Lincolnshire, England with his family in 1837 and whose inlaws emigrated from Suffolk in 1831.
Chop fine a half pound of suet
Stone 2 Pounds of raisins
Soak a 5 penny loaf of Bread in one
pint of milk. When it has taken up all of the milk
add to it the raisins and suet
4 Eggs Well beaten
1 Cup of Brown sugar
1 nut meg
2 tablespoonsfuls of flower [flour]
put this in to 3 Pudding
and Boil 3 ours [hours]