My darling daughter called the other day and asked about a recipe for meatballs she made when living at home. The recipe came from the Emmanuel Lutheran Church ladies, circa 1975.
Copy the recipe,” I said. “But, don’t take my cookbook with you.”
When I was visiting my mom, we talked cookbooks with Edryse Miller who walked by us delivering Miller Family cookbooks to the Community Café in Gackle.
“If you want a recipe for anything, it’s in that Lutheran Cookbook,” my mom said. If you cook like a German anyway, I thought to myself.
Garrison Keillor pokes fun at the Lutheran Church Basement Ladies in his weekly Prairie Home Companion broadcast. He even sang a song dedicated to the “casserole” dinners held at the church on every occasion. It went lyrically “tu-na and noo-dles and Creammm of Mush-room soup….”
Don’t laugh. Even my children said how much they miss the potlucks we used to have at the church for New Member Sunday.
We eat out too much today. If we were to revive the era of hot dishes and Jell-o salad, maybe we’d be healthier. It was a way to use up leftovers, too. Sometimes, when I am trolling for a recipe to use up some leftover ham or zucchini overflow, I check that Lutheran Cookbook.
It’s instant dinner when you use a vegetable, a meat and a can of “Cream of Something” soup. Add onions and celery and bake at 350 degrees for somewhere between 30-60 minutes. Serve with your favorite colored Jell-o with shredded carrots or fruit suspended in it and you have a complete meal.
Not all recipes in that book are for casseroles. The book also has my favorite pie crust recipes and something called Mexicali Vegetable Soup with Meat Balls in there. That recipe has my name attached to it because my mother submitted it. (There’s also a typo and it reads “Mixicali Vegetable Soup…” which is a better description of the ingredients anyway.)
Some church ladies were quite worldly their submissions. There are recipes in the Foreign Foods section for Blachinda, Basti, Finnish Flat Bread, Kuchen Dough and filling, Fattigman and Bohemian Butter Tarts.
Of course, if you grew up Lutheran, these are not foreign foods in your house.
There are also some recipes with some very “unusual” ingredients in them like: Prune Cake, Potato Cake and Sauerkraut Cake. Trust me on this one, the sauerkraut tastes like coconut and keeps the cake very moist. (But so does coconut, I believe.) Then there’s my favorite, Ammonia Cookies. Thank goodness I didn’t try this before my Aunt Alice told me there’s a difference between baking ammonia and Mr. Clean.
Like any good cookbook, my favorite pages are bookmarked by stains and torn binding. Most of the pages are sugarcoated and toasted with age. It was printed pre-computer and the recipes are typewritten.
To fill in the white space at the bottom of the pages, there are quips like:
“The bonds of matrimony aren’t worth much, unless the interest is kept up” or “A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.”
And, yes, there are recipes for Jell-o salads and desserts; nearly every one used Dream Whip, Jell-o or Pudding mix as the main ingredient. There’s even a recipe for Tomato Soup Salad.
Most of all, the Lutheran Cookbook has memories. I recognize the names of ladies who cooked for the funerals and weddings on Saturdays and taught Sunday school on Sundays. There are names of classmates and friends, people who have passed away and people who I still run into once in blue moon.
I’m thinking maybe we should have more potluck dinners in this world?