Sunday, October 24, 2010

The El Paso Cookbook

In many cases, community cookbooks are self published in small runs so that many are never archived. The total number of community cookbooks ever published will probably never be known.  But in a rare case, a cookbook may be reprinted and annotated for a modern audience.  Such is the case for the El Paso Cookbook, originally written to benefit the Ladies Axillary of the Y.M.C.A. in El Paso, Texas. This book is available to read at Google Books and available for sale at Amazon.

This cookbook provides a short history of charity cookbooks in Texas.  Edited by Andrew F. Smith, a Culinary Historian, he writes in the introduction, "The El Paso Cookbook is valuable from a historical standpoint-for what it tells us about El Paso and what it tells us about cookery at the beginning of the twentieth century."

This reprinting of an 1898 cookbook provides us with the names of 85 recipe contributors. According to Smith, women contributing recipes were local women, women whose husband's were stationed at Ft. Bliss, and women from other cities in Texas, Pennsylvania and Minnesota. In the case of women who were not living in El Paso, their city is listed next to their name just under the recipe title. Along with recipes, there are also advertisements for local businesses.

Looking for cemeteries in El Paso?  Well this cookbook includes a full page advertisement for Concordia Cemetery (page 65).  The ad states "This cemetery is situated upon high ground thirty feet above the river level. It has been greatly improved and beautified under the new management and no effort will be spared to add to its attractiveness. The Masonic and Odd Fellows' Societies, the Jewish and Catholic Churches and other organizations have their burial grounds immediately adjoining this cemetery."

One of the funnier ads found in this cookbook is for an insurance company which proclaims "Before trying the recipes in this book, have you lives (sic) insured with The Equitable Life Assurance Society." (page 98).

Those with ancestors in El Paso at the turn of the century might find the ads, and the names of the women contributors in this volume, of interest to your research.