While poking around the Napa County Historical Society Library one day, I came across our small but exceptionally unusual collection of cookbooks. The one that immediately drew my eye is named Cupid’s Book and bears a handwritten note on its cover: “This book was handed out along with your marriage license in 1940.” Though I was barely able to resist the temptation to pick up the phone and call Mr. John Tuteur, Recorder-County Clerk to inform him of this great way to provide an extra service for Napa’s newlyweds, I could not resist the temptation to leaf through this beautiful little cookbook.
The book contains gift certificates from Meyer’s Jewelry Company formerly located at 1019 First Street, just down the street from the Goodman Library; it also contains advertisements from Meyer’s offering wedding ring sets (called Wedding Ensembles) for $98 no money down, no interest, no carrying charges and only $2.00 a week. Though the book does not have a publication date, it was printed in Oakland. Our much-loved and well-used copy was donated by Margaret Hoover, long-time volunteer, supporter, and member of the Society.
You can imagine how difficult it must have been to select only one recipe to share but here is one for all of you who have always wondered how to make succotash.
2 cups cooked or canned kidney beans
1 1/2 cups canned corn
1 tablespoon minced green pepper
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Combine ingredients and place in a casserole. Bake for 30 minutes in a moderate oven.
Other cookbooks we have in our collection include Napa Valley Cook Book by British War Relief (1941) “solicited by Great Britain’s Friends in Napa County, California to aid British War Relief,” Mammy Pleasant’s Cookbook: A Treasury of Gourmet Recipes from Victorian America (1970), and “Gosh Mom!! You gave away our secrets!”: Old Napa Valley Recipes by Vi Duhig. There is no publication date on this last one either but NCHS acquired it in 1983. The art work for the book was provided by Vi Duhig and Dorothy Soderholm, and the calligraphy was also done by Dorothy.
Notable items: the Napa Valley-produced cookbooks have an unusually large number of recipes using prunes. For those of you who are newcomers to the valley, prunes were for many years one of our largest fruit crops. Included under the weird and wacky category are Mayonnaise Cake, German Balls, Voodoo Magic, and Corn Starch Pudding. Yikes! If they haven’t maxed out your yearly cholesterol intake yet, you could also try the recipe for Flank Steak with Frankfurter Stuffing and Creamed Sweetbreads Deluxe.
(A version of this article also appeared in the Napa Register, June 2, 2013.)