Last Monday I did a program at Broad Street Methodist Church in Statesville, and my friend Billie-Fae Gill handed me a spiral-bound book that is the subject of today’s column. Its title is “Recipes and Recollections of the Extension Homemakers of Iredell County,” printed in December of 1975.
The occasion that prompted the creation of this book was the celebration of the 200th birthday of these United States. All sorts of activities were planned and pursued: parades, battle re-enactments, the issuance of commemorative stamps, the burial of time capsules and so on. The “Recipes and Recollections” was a local part of this surge of patriotism.
The book is divided into two parts: The first is a collection of “heritage” recipes, while the second is a potpourri of stories dealing more or less with the anecdotal history of this area. Billie-Fae, a published writer, was the editor of the second part of the book.
The recipes were collected from members of the then 32 Extension Homemakers Clubs in Iredell.
Some recipes that caught my eye were “Cracklin Bread” and “Salt Rising Bread” in the Breads section; “Pumpkin Chip Preserves” from the Candy-Jelly-Preserves section; and two different recipes for “Old-Fashioned Pound Cake” and a “Sausage Cake” recipe from the Cakes section.
In the Desserts section were – among others — four recipes for persimmon pudding. There were 14 different recipes for pies in the pies section, including one for “Brown Sugar Pie,” one for “Mock Rhubarb Pie” and one for “Vinegar Pie.”
There were only six entries in the “Meats” section. The most interesting entry there, by far, was for “Roast ‘Possum,” submitted by Mrs. W. T. Tatum, of Olin, which begins, “To roast a ‘possum, first catch the ‘possum ....”
Sounds like a sensible plan to me. Personally, I don’t believe I have ever sampled the meat from our only North American marsupial, and honestly, I have no plans to sample it. However, at one time, roasted ‘possum accompanied by sweet potatoes was considered to be eating “high on the hog,” sort of.
In a section titled, “Old Timey Ideas,” we are given no less than four recipes for Corn Meal Mush, three descriptions of how to prepare old-fashioned lye hominy, and instructions for preparing “Smoked Apples with Sulphur.”
Besides featuring recipes for foodstuffs, this section also contained recipes for non-foods, such as homemade lye soap, diphtheria medicine and hair dye. My pick, however, was the recipe for “Pig’s Foot Jelly,” said to have been “a holiday dessert served in the finest of cut-glass bowls.” This recipe utilized animal skin and bones as a source of gelatin and was submitted by Mrs. Katherine N. Knox, of the Crosstowners Club.
Perhaps the most valuable contribution in the book was the passing along of some of the history of the home-makers clubs, beginning with the home demonstration clubs, and tomato clubs for girls and corn clubs for boys beginning around 1913, and led by Miss Celeste Henkel and Mrs. Mary C. Holliday and continued by Mrs. Virginia Parrott and Miss Ruth Current. These ladies helped raise the standard of living in Iredell rural homes by showing the ladies how “to help themselves where they are and with what they have.” The work these ladies began prior to the First World War continued through the dark days of the Great Depression and into World War II.
Besides providing demonstrations of “practical” skills such as canning, drying of foods, the making of fly traps and sewing, the meetings with demonstration agents also provided a much-needed social element in the lives of women living outside of town.
The history-related part of the book included articles on the naming of Statesville and Iredell County, the story of pioneer John McElwraith and a biography of the Revolutionary War patriot Thomas Young.
Much of an 1868 letter from Olin is included, as is an article on the Chambers Plantation at Elmwood and a short play about Tom Dooley.
Other articles concern the history of the Hall family, St. Paul Lutheran Church, some history of early Catholics in Iredell and the beginning of the Statesville City Schools. My favorite article is an interview with Miss Della Arnold, who taught school in Iredell and elsewhere for 49 years, beginning in 1922. I have read about Miss Arnold before, but this was the first interview I have read.
Miss Della began her career with a salary of $20 a month, and taught a four-month school “year.”
I could describe other articles contained in this 1975 gem, but I think I have given you a good idea of its contents. I would suggest that this book be reprinted and made available again, after a 44-year hiatus.