Readers share their favorite cookbooks

Alabama Living Magazine

For some, a cookbook received as a gift is enough to make it a keepsake. Others are treasured heirlooms, passed from one generation to the next.

Even homespun, simple cookbooks – like those sold as fundraisers by Junior Leagues and women’s church groups – hold a special place for many home cooks. What the recipes may lack in sophistication is more than made up for in the sense of community and tradition that graces the pages.

We asked readers to share their favorites with us. See if you recognize any of them!  — Allison Law

Linda Kelso, Joe Wheeler EMC:

These days we have shelves of cookbooks and wonder if we should even keep them since you can find almost any recipe you need online. Just as there is something comforting about holding a real book, so it is with a cookbook. You can mark the pages, add notes and dream of the recipes you will try.

My paternal grandmother, Cecil Kelso, only had one cookbook – a 1950 Duluth’s Favorite Recipes. When I got the cookbook, I was surprised to find that several of “her” recipes, which she had passed on to us, were from this cookbook. I have spent hours looking at the book; few of the recipes use cans of soup, but many use canned vegetables in a city where there’s often snow for nine months of a year. Kolachy, Kringle, Patica, Fattigmond – recipes from a bygone era of immigrant grandmothers showing the ethnic diversity of this Minnesota city at the head of the lakes. I am honored to be the granddaughter that got “the” cookbook.

Jeffrey M. Jones, Langston, Ala.:

When I was a mailman in Texas, I passed a yard sale and saw a 10-cent French paperback cookbook. Everything you can imagine is in there! Quiche, Hollandaise sauce, pate and my favorite, beef in red wine sauce.

 The book’s 96 pages are not connected in any way anymore, but I still use it. I think I’ll make some vichyssoise tonight – all from (a) 10-cent (book).

Bill Dunbar, Dixie EC and Baldwin EMC:

Whenever anyone talks cookbooks, and we have all the usual special family ones, there is one that stands out. It’s not just a cookbook (and a very good one) – it is a time capsule of life on the Gulf coast of Alabama. For those of us who were so fortunate to experience this lifestyle this cookbook takes us back to a time not really gone with the wind but still alive in our hearts and minds. Food, Fun, and Fable from Meme’s on Bon Secour River is a must-read. After that I would say find the old timers from the area, (because) everyone knows Meme’s.

 Meme brought me out my first broiled flounder supper. I was just barely starting grade school. She explained how this young ‘man’ with the curly hair and raw sunburned nose could eat this fish one side at a time and never worry about eating a bone. I cannot eat broiled flounder out to this day. It just doesn’t measure up to Charley’s and Meme’s!

Diane Meyer, Cullman EC:

I actually have two favorite cookbooks, and both were published by Auburn University in the 1960s. My grandmother purchased them and they were passed down to me. One is a cookbook, the other is a canning book and I have used both. I used the cookbook when I was a child. I learned how to make “standard” butter cookies (we called them sugar cookies) from this book as well as a standard butter cake.  

My favorite thing about the cookbooks is that my grandmother hand wrote extra recipes in any open space on the pages. I cherish seeing her handwriting and her comments on the recipes. I am now in the process of teaching my granddaughter to cook using different cookbooks and we are making new memories!

Michele and Gary St. Laurent,
Wetumpka, Ala.:

Our first Christmas together in 1980, my husband and I did not know what to get each other. So, we headed to the mall on Christmas Eve. One of the things I picked out for myself was this Betty Crocker Cookbook. I taught myself how to cook from this book. I will always keep it. I still use it but have memorized the ones I use most.

Ashley Smith, Tallapoosa River EC:

When I need a reminder of how much of a particular ingredient goes in a recipe, I call Mama. Each time, she tells me to “hold on while she checks.” On her end of the line, she stands at the kitchen counter and flips the pages of her cookbook until she finds the recipe and then responds. She probably knows most ingredients and measurements by heart but likes to confirm. I know both of my sisters make similar calls to Mama while cooking.

Not only is her cookbook a collection of recipes, Mama’s cookbook holds our family history, connecting the years through the foods we enjoy. My favorite cookbook belongs to my Mama, Ann Dudley Parkman.

Barbara Perdue Middleton, Pioneer EC:

My favorite cookbook is A Taste of Butler County, Alabama: Treasured Family Recipes of The Butler County Historical Society. This special keepsake was published as part of our Society’s 40th anniversary celebration in 2004. 

Butler County Historical Society members contributed 250 pages of beloved recipes of yesterday and today, along with recollections and treasured family photographs. And, since it is a Butler County cookbook, we have a special Crawfish Pie to go along with Jambalaya and File’ Gumbo in honor of our native son, Hank Williams Sr. It is truly a book to read and enjoy!

Nicole Law, Central Alabama EC:

This treasured cookbook belonged to my great-grandmother, Mandy Moon Powell, and later to my grandmother, Lu Powell Sample. It includes many of their own hand-written recipes between the worn pages, and when I prepare one of these recipes, it is a little like walking in their shoes. Of course, Mandy did not have the luxury of electricity in her kitchen when she first used this cookbook! I love that their traditions continue to bring my family special treats and enjoyment.n


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