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I'm looking at a cookbook, nominally - the "book" part is something…

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I'm looking at a cookbook, nominally - the "book" part is something of an overstatement. It's 196 pages of 5x8 looseleaf, held together by two big rings fed through holes punched on the left side. The pages are stained and tattered at the edges, and many of the pages are ripped through at the punched holes. Some of those torn holes are repaired with hole reinforcers (or what my college theatre director used to call, in a phrase utterly redolent of her, 'paper assholes'). The print is obviously photocopied, and the original was just as obviously done up on a typewriter. Though the front cover is missing, the first page tells me that this is the Winning Wheels Cookbook II, compiled from Recipes of Friends of Winning Wheels, Inc, and that the scratchy little illustrations throughout the book were drawn by Mrs. Gene (Lynn) Conduff.

This is the kind of thing that I only have because of my cookbook/recipe fascination. This book is just one small part of a big box of booklets, pamphlets, mailers and clippings that came from the collection of one of my maternal great-grandmothers. Actually, maybe this stuff came from both of Mom's grandmas - I don't know for sure, as I found them years ago in a box in a garage I was helping clean out. There were not very many actual bound books in this collection - there were some, but I'm guessing the good ones got absorbed into other family members' collections, and most of the rest were surely disposed of in a book-appropriate fashion. Similarly, there weren't many handwritten index cards, because those were kept by my grandmother as a keepsake from her mother. This is the inbetween stuff, the things that are left behind when a cook moves or reorganizes, the inhabitants of kitchen limbo. I find this detritus entrancing.

The Winning Wheels Cookbook II has no date on it, but my guess is it was made in the early to mid-70s: it's not original but also not mimeographed, so a copier was available; but it's very homemade-looking, so cheap professional printing was not. I don't have a good sense of when Kinko's hit the midwest, but I know that by 1986 my school reports printed out at home were slicker than this (because I still have a few of them around somewhere, of course).

I will be going through this collection looking for recipes that interest me, but I don't exactly know what to do with it after that. It's not really in good enough shape to preserve just for the sake of having it as a cookbook, but I hate to just toss it in the recycling. I thought maybe knowing more about its origin would help. For most of the similar cookbooks there would be no question, as they generally announce that they are the collaborative work of some church congregation or other. However, Googling suggests that this one probably came from a fundraiser for a physical therapy/rehab center in Prophetstown, IL. I sort of wonder if they'd like it back, as a history kind of thing. I may call them.

In the meantime, at the moment I'm most fascinated by a section at the back entitled, "Vincent's Odds and Ends." That's a good description, as it seems to be a pretty random assemblage of kitchen hints, gardening tips, miscellaneous techniques and clever ideas. It feels very homey to me; a lot of this sounds like the kind of stuff my great-grandmother would have thought was just the thing to do. Who is Vincent and who told him all these things? I have no idea... but I'm going to preserve it here, because I can. I do not promise to be faithful to the original formatting, but the content will be the same.

Vincent's Odds and Ends

Dip pitted cherries for a moment into a heavy boiling syrup. Dry on waxed paper. Consistency of raisins. Use in baking or desserts, etc. Most delicious. (I want to try this!)

Sweet Corn
Test - The silk should be brown when ready to eat. Pinch the end near the tip, if slim and pointed it is not quite ready to eat. Corn is best cooked soon after being picked. In the market, too long away from the field, it seems to lose that good taste and seems "homesick."

In planting, 4 short rows pollinate better than two long rows. Have several plantings 2 weeks apart. A dwarf variety matures quickly - then follow it up with taller corn.

On farm - plant 2 outside rows with planter. They will mature earlier than field corn and not mix. Cook a big kettle of sweet corn and the leftovers from dinner - cut off and dry in oven. Has different flavor and in tight containers will keep indefinitely. Soak a few hours before bringing to a boil, add milk and seasoning. Good scalloped. Grate any corn that is a little tough. The tough part will remain on the cob. Grated corn can be canned or frozen.

Corn Fritters
1 can corn or raw grated corn
1 egg well beaten
3 tablespoons flour or cracker crumbs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
ad lib, 1 tsp baking powder (I guess this means optional?)

Fry like pancakes, or in deep fat in balls. Freeze what you don't need for later use.

- - - - -

Freeze: Blanch husked corn, put in plastic bags - freeze. To use, put in boiling water a few minutes. Just like fresh, and quick to prepare. (Even as recently as thirty years ago, a recipe writer could assume that a cook would know what it means to "blanch." For the modern cook, though, there is About.com.)

Cut Worms
A dime's worth of sulphur at the drugstore, sprinkled at the base of tomato plants, cabbage, cauliflower, etc. will discourage cutworms. Stiff paper collars, a nail placed beside the small plant has also been suggested. (How much is "a dime's worth?" For this to be useful, one would need to know the exact printing date, I think. Do they even sell just flat out sulphur at drugstores these days? I'm betting you'd need to go to a science supply outfit.)

When painting indoors, slip a pair of old socks over your shoes. A drop of paint on the floor? Merely skate it up.

To remove a cork pushed into a bottle: pour out contents of bottle; pour in just enough ammonia to float the cork. Let stand 24 hours. Ammonia will eat the cork, causing it to crumble.

A small magnifying glass attached to 'phone directory helps to see numbers readily. (I loved the apostrophe. I wonder when that dropped from common parlance? This does not give me any real information on that, only tantalizing suggestions.)

Plastic Bread Wrappers
Cut plastic bread wrappers round and round in strips like carpet rags. Join with Scotch tape. Crochet to make seat pads. Washable and wearable. Also, rugs can be made in this manner. (I wonder when the plastic shopping bag was introduced?)

Write on eggs with a solution of alum and vinegar. Boil and peel. The writing should appear on egg white. (I want to try this.)

Open eggs at tip. Dry. Use as mold for Jell-O or on lettuce salad, or with whipped cream as dessert. Place in egg carton to chill.

Fill empty egg shells with dirt to plant a vegetable or flower seed. Later, plant egg shell and all in the ground. Shell will dissolve without disturbing the roots. (Cool!)

Peel boiled eggs, let stand in beet juice to color. Where they touch will leave a white spot. Makes pretty deviled eggs.

Aphids do not like onions. Grind any of the onion family, tame onions, wild onions, shallots, garlic etc. Soak in water overnight, drain and use as a spray.

Plant onions near roses, peas, etc. Ladybugs also devour aphids, also praying mantis. Either can be bought by the quart, or egg cases. (I wonder if this is still true?)

To conserve space, make a cylinder of coarse woven wire for tomatoes to grow up in. Mulch heavy with grass clippings to keep weeds down. In transplanting spindly tomatoes lay them in a shallow trench, and leave two inches uncovered. The end will turn up and grow, and hte covered stem will grow additional roots. In late fall, just before killing frost, pick green tomatoes with 4-6 inches of stem left on. Most of them will ripen indoors.

When you set out tomato plants in the spring, plant tomato seeds. The later plants will prolong the season.

For Your Cat
Dry some catnip to use in tea given in milk. To give a cat medicine, smear it on its sides, and cat will lick it off.

For humor - place close fitting paper sack over cat's head and see him in speedy reverse around room. Jam his feet in half English walnut shells and place on smooth floor.

Ok, I will put up the rest later. I am not quite halfway through the Vincent section, but I think that "How the Previous Generation Screwed with their Cats" is a good stopping point.
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