I have a favorite cookbook. It is called “The Modern Family CookBook.” It is written by Meta Given.
I love it because it is old. Amazon calls it “vintage.” The title is funny because the copyright in the front of the book says 1942. The Modern Family Cookbook from 1942. It’s not so “Modern” anymore.
I also love it because it was my grandmother’s . She wrote her nickname on the first page.
It says, “Peachie.”
Another reason I love it is because it has recipes for things that don’t have recipes.
Like: ketchup, mayonnaise, chocolate sauce and peanut butter. It also has recipes for all the classics I grew up with like: succotash, wilted lettuce, and Waldorf salad. It even has recipes for everything you’ve ever read about in a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. From Oxtail soup to parsnips to doughnuts.
If you’ve never read a Laura Ingalls Wilder book you should start today. I recommend you read “Farmer Boy” first. It is by far the favorite in this house. Even if you hate the TV show “Little House On The Prairie” you may like the books. I realize that since I love old fashioned things, and I like living in the country that I should like “Little House On The Prairie,” but I don’t. I don’t like it. Not at all. I have a daughter that likes to watch it & I’ll watch it with her, but I’ve never really liked it. I want to hit Nellie in the face.
In 1961 there were over 1,250,000 copies of “The Modern Family CookBook” in print. That seems like a lot to me, so I’m guessing several of our grandmothers or great-grandmothers have seen this book.
I could write about 88 posts about this book. It is a gem.
Today, I’ll just share a couple of the highlights. The best part of this book is not the recipes. It is the history. Ms. Given spends almost 100 pages of her 600 page book discussing meal planning, shopping, and various “creeds” associated with running a home.
Here’s the first Creed in the book:
The Meal Planner’s Creed
The health of my family is in my care; therefore – I will spare no effort in planning the right kinds of food in the right amounts.
Spending the food dollar for maximum value is my job; therefore – I will choose from the variously priced foods to save money without sacrificing health.
My family’s enjoyment of food is my responsibility; therefore – I will increase their pleasure by planning for variety, for flavorful dishes, for attractive color, for appetizing combinations.
My family’s health, security, and pleasure depend on my skill in planning meals; therefore – I will treat my job with the respect that it is due it.
How about that for a word from 1942!
I will admit that I am a recovering coupon-aholic. I could have been on the TV show. I’ve even taught classes on how to use coupons. I know how buy groceries for free. I know how to play the drugstore game. The groceries may have been free or close to it, but many of them were processed foods. I was guilty of “saving money but sacrificing health.” I still use coupons, but I don’t just buy it because it’s on sale. I buy it if it’s food that we eat.
Ms. Given discusses the importance of a well-balanced diet which is achieved by eating a variety of foods. She talks about “hidden hunger” that can not necessarily be felt immediately, but that will emerge over a long period of time if a vital element is missing from the diet. Think of eating McDonalds everyday. You may not feel hungry, but over a long period of time, if you ate nothing but McDonalds, your body would suffer. There would be a “hidden hunger” for missing vitamins, minerals and general nutrition.
You don’t have to eat McDonalds everyday to have “hidden hunger.” It can occur in our homes if we aren’t intentional about providing nourishing foods in a way that meet our requirements. Too much of one food, not enough of another, or too much processed foods can all create “hidden hunger.”
That “hidden hunger” can surface as a lack of energy, not sleeping well, feeling “off,” or it can unveil itself more dramatically in the form of sickness or disease.
Ms. Given is a big believer in menu planning in order to see that the family’s diet includes the correct balance of protein, caloric requirements, vitamins and minerals. She stresses the need for this in the “modern world” she was living in.
The generations before Ms. Given didn’t have the need to be so concerned about diet and nutrition. She discusses how lives were much different in prior to her lifetime ( before 1940).
During her grandmother’s life people had bigger appetites. Everyone worked harder, they had physical labor demanding from them all day.
They lived in colder houses, they didn’t have washing machines or dishwashers . 80% of people lived on farms!
Think of the physical work they did every day on their farms. They milked cows, raised wheat, cared for livestock, grew gardens, butchered/ processed most their food, produced their own hay, thrashed wheat, churned butter, shucked corn, beans, peas, and canned their food. They put up stores for winter, chopped wood, washed, dried, and mended clothing. Whew!
They ate more for breakfast on Monday morning than I eat in a week. They needed the calories, they were working hard (often in freezing or scorching temperatures).
Ms. Given explains that because they consumed so much food, their bodies got what it needed.
Today, most of us don’t physically work that hard. If we ate the volume of food these folks did we would be huge. We don’t need as many calories, so we don’t consume as much food.
Since we aren’t eating as much, what we are eating needs to count. We need to be more aware of what is going into our bodies.
Their food was different from our food too. Because 80 percent of them lived on farms, the food they ate was fresh from the field, garden or orchard with most the vitamins intact. Back then, there weren’t “picky eaters.” There was a much smaller variety of foods to eat and you ate what you had. They ate fresh, local, and a lot of it. If turnips were served, turnips were eaten. They ate what they raised, and picky eaters had no other choices. Little Mary and Little Johnny had to eat the turnips. Nowadays it is easy to replace a food someone doesn’t like with another to suit their taste. Which can easily create a hidden hungers. This wouldn’t have happened in 1942. They ate what they had and were grateful.
Ms. Given was concerned in 1942 about how far food was travelling, how long ago it was picked, how little people were consuming, and the quality of the food. She lived in a time when the egg-lady and the milk-man still came every week. Can you imagine what she would say today?
Although, I love her cookbook, stories, and recipes; I can’t implement her recommended menu-planning system. I find it complicated and difficult. Which stresses me out. I need easy and simple. Therefore, I don’t use her menu-plan. But, I do use her recipes & information….. A lot.
Ms. Given lived in a time before the ‘cream of mushroom’ soup explosion, so her recipes use cream and mushrooms instead. I love that she uses real ingredients and old fashioned techniques. She does a wonderful job of explaining the why behind the foods we eat.
One substitution you will want to make in her recipes is butter in place of shortening. Knowing her concern for health and nutrition, I am going to assume she was not aware of how unhealthy shortening was and still is. Butter is a wonderful replacement for shortening and I think it yields a better, tastier result.
I want to live by the Meal Planner’s Creed. I want my family to be nourished and not have ‘hidden hunger.’ “The Modern Family CookBook” helps me live on a real food diet. It is a treasure to have and I reach for it all the time.
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