I stood in the deserted Book Exchange yesterday afternoon, sniffing through the old books, when I noticed a battered volume covered in old yellow shelf paper. Shelf paper is always a good sign. Nobody these days has plain wood shelving they want to cover, and a book must be well-loved to merit a homemade jacket. In thin pencil on the spine were the words, "Settlement Cook Book."
Inside, Mrs. Simon Kander smiles placidly at me, "Very Truly Yours," and I recall that she often sits on well-papered shelves with the likes of Irma Rombauer and Fannie Merritt Farmer. But I don't yet discover her real design -- I slip a dollar in the box and run with my treasure. It's only hours later, back in the city, that I slide the shelf-paper jacket from the book and gasp.
Two-by-two, noses in their cookbooks, are a couple dozen cute little cooks, marching towards a large heart on the horizon and the words, "The way to a man's heart." Come, my apron-clad, man-seeking companions, let us take the road laid out before us as it winds its way through our iceboxes and ranges, through our pies and pickles, through the capillaries and arteries of a manly chest to the heart that lies beating within it. It's a hilarious grotesque, a creepy relic of coy humor, and a fabulous treasure for my shelf.
Mrs. Simon Kander, née Lizzie Black, compiled the first edition of her cookbook in 1903, a charity project to benefit a community of Russian Jews in Milwaukee. That edition also bears the subtitle, "The way to a man's heart," but instead of antlike marching cooks, it depicts a lady playing the flute. Mine is the 30th edition, from 1951. The book is falling apart, and I might need to work some curatorial magic to get it in good enough shape for my own shelf. Since Mrs. Kander herself was German, the cookbook includes kuchen and matzos and spritz krapfen -- and, of course, clear signposts pointing its readers to manly hearts. Is it the Apple Roly-Poly? The Wine Syllabub? Rinktum-Dity?
Make Plain Pie Crust or Biscuit Dough. Roll out 1/2 inch thick. Spread with chopped apples or jam, raisins, sugar and cinnamon; roll like Jelly Roll. Place in a small baking pan, spread butter over all and add 2 cups of cold water, and bake in a hot oven, basting often, with the sauce in the pan, until done. Serve hot.
(Kander, Mrs. Simon. The Settlement Cook Book. Milwaukee: The Settlement Cook Book Co., 30th ed., 1951).