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A step back in time

[This is Part 2 of a story about the revelations found in the author’s 1940s hometown cookbook.]

The names of most recipe contributors remind me of people I knew. If I didn’t know them, I knew their kids – or their kids’ kids. I could tell you exactly which houses many of them lived in and, in some cases, where they sat at church.

An interesting sidelight? The book rarely lists a woman’s first name. One would expect to see “Emma Pipkorn.” But no, she is shown as “Mrs. T. Pipkorn” (the T is for Theodore). I’m not a women’s libber (is that still a term?) but apparently married women had little standing without being linked to their husband’s name – even in a cookbook that would likely only be seen by women.

Businesses that supported the cookbook with display ads? I remember tagging along to many of those enterprises, some of which, remarkably, still exist. Whether a hardware store, a pharmacy or a butcher shop, I was there as a kid. My favorite ad is for “Theo J. Pipkorn, Blacksmith & Horse-Shoer.” Why? He was my dear, kind grandpa who lived until I was 15.

This treasured book communicates to me how fast life has changed in only 80 years. It is no secret that progress has increased exponentially in the last eight decades, and of course that applies to food and cooking along with technology and a host of other things.

To think that my mother’s dad was a blacksmith amazes me. And Grandpa did not work to create fancy designs for rich people – no, he took care of farmers’ real needs.

Back to the recipes themselves: I see much in there on how to prepare wild game – everything from grouse to venison. Many recipes involve pork, veal, sausage, ham and liver. Some tell ways to cook anything and everything folks could pull from their gardens.

Several were labeled “budget” or “economical” – or it’s obvious that cost was the driving force behind their creation.

Scrapple is one such recipe as it makes use of every last bit of a pig, including skin, liver and tongue. After that’s ground up, you add flour or oatmeal to the pork juices plus seasoning. You make a loaf, chill, slice and fry it. The outside should become crispy and caramelized while the inside is warm and tender. The recipe tries to make it sound appetizing, but I’m not convinced. At all. In other words, no thanks!

Today’s kitchens with the array of microwaves, convection ovens, huge refrigerators, slow cookers, blenders, coffeemakers, air fryers and dishwashers would surely cause my grandma’s eyes to widen.

In 2024, we take so many timesavers and conveniences for granted; perhaps thinking back to life in the 1940s will make us more appreciative.

So, if I feel like learning some history, I do not have to buy a history book or do internet research. I just have to flip open my dusty old copy of the Mequon Cookbook.


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