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Online, one can find sophisticated recipes, refined and tested at prestigious institutions like the Milk Street Cooking School, or pinned and posted on various sites by people and communities.
The cookbook evolved from recipes on palimpsests to bound volumes with standardized formats published today. The Community -- or Charity cookbook -- holds a unique place in American history. A Poetical Cookbook, written by Maria J. Moss, is considered the first community cookbook. Dedicated and sold at the Great Central Fair in 1864*, the first fundraising recipes went home with their purchasers. The most famous recipe in this book may be that for Turtle Soup with deliberate instructions on the preparation and dressing of the doomed chelonian. Also sold at the fair were 48 signed copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, donated by President Abraham Lincoln, showing his support for the United States Sanitary Commission* fundraising.
The many charity or community cookbooks created in Highland Park in the 20th century boast diverse origins. Women’s clubs, houses of worship, nursery schools and pet shelters; even a bank collated recipes. Book purposes range from philanthropic fundraising, education, celebration; and .. to promote a business.
Here's What’s Cooking at the First of Highland Park, distributed by the bank in the 1970s opens with this quip, “ To FDIC* you cannot run, This book is meant just for cooking' and fun. *Federal Department of Incredible Cooking.”
The famed Highland Park Ossoli Club, being first in so many things in the City of Highland Park, Illinois, published a cookbook in 1911. Soups begin with basic scratch stocks to soups created chiefly with a prepared can.
The Highland Park -- Ravinia Infant Welfare Society entitled its charity book, published in 1973, Kitchen Gossip : Plain & Spicy.” From the complex crab meat soufflé to chicken gumbo consisting of cans of tomato and chicken gumbo soup, this cookbook shares “Calorie Counters” in the back.
Tradition in the Kitchen, published in 1976 by the North Suburban Synagogue Beth El Sisterhood, is dedicated to “Our Sisters throughout the world who, by sharing our recipes set a table of love and beauty, abundant with joy in keeping a traditional home.” Soup recipes include varieties of borscht and gazpacho.
Also published in the 1970s, The Book of Uncommon Cooking cites compilation by “The Saints and Sinners of Trinity Episcopal Church, Highland Park, Illinois. “ Helpful baking hints juxtapose with standards such as bean soup. The Non-poisonous Mushroom Pie recipe suggests serving family first.
The Evangelical Congregational Church celebrated its centenary with the title Our Best Home Cooking in 1996. Compiled by the Church’s Women’s Christian Fellowship, Sunday School and worship times are noted in the first pages. Hillary Clinton’s Cookies can be found on page 74.
In addition to recipes, these tomes document community activities and provide insight to the communities’ day-to-day lives.
Other cooking insights and information can be found in archives through correspondence, “..Mother want to know what we have to eat? - well we have coffee sugar pork beef and crackers that is what we have for dinner we had cookies buiscuit and surup we have several entries we don't suffer for anny thing and eat (illegible) we have plenty of such...”On Board Steamer Huntsman Goldsboroug(sic), N.C, April 2nd, 1865 (John Finney, papers).
More Highland Park, Illinois and other community cookbooks can be found online and in libraries, including at the Highland Park Public Library, Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project, The Hermilda Listeman Community Cookbook Collection. Google books, Project Gutenberg and the Hathi Trust are also excellent sources.
*Civilian-organized bazaars and expositions raised funds for the Commission to support the Union war efforts and soldiers.