The Deliciously Dirty Pages — Going back to Park Center Church and the ladies’ soups, salads, vegetables

This is the latest installment of the feature on to showcase old, tried and true, family favorite recipes handed down through the generations. And where are they found? On the dirtiest, most stained pages of beloved old cookbooks.

These aren’t The White Pages. They aren’t the Yellow Pages. They are the Deliciously Dirty Pages, where good cooking and memories of great cooks are forever preserved.

This writer has a collection of old cookbooks, ranging in age from 40 to 70 years old, which were used by her mother. She kept the cookbooks and has beautiful memories of making those favored recipes, as well as spilling ingredients on the pages.

The theory is the dirtier the page, the better the recipe.

Each Wednesday, JustMelanieW is featuring these culinary wonders, sure to still please because they have been made many times with great success – again, identified by being on the dirtiest pages of these archival hard copy treasures.

We would also love to share your family favorite recipes from your own Deliciously Dirty Pages. Just send them to And if you want to share pictures of the end product, or your family making it, or a picture of the dirty cookbook pages where the recipes were found – please send those my way as well!

Some of our greatest memories come from the kitchen . . . and those Deliciously Dirty Pages.

This week’s featured recipes: Soups, salads and vegetables from Park Center Church

This week, we will return back to Park Center Church because the reaction two weeks ago with those ladies’ casseroles was so wonderful! Readers want to see more! So here we go!

The Park Church (also known as Park Center) congregation west of Elgin was, has been and continues to be a community within itself. At one time, there was a country school nearby which has since closed. But the old church remains, as well as a cemetery and the Park Center title for that area in general.

I have the Park Church Centennial Cookbook, which was published in 1985 in honor of the congregation’s 100th anniversary.

The first church in that community (Clay Ridge as it was initially called) was organized as the Pleasant Valley Presbyterian Church and the meetings were held in the homes of members. On April 30, 1885, the organization met and voted to disband.

Then on May 31, 1885, they met and voted to organize as a congregational church and to call it the Pleasant Valley Congregational Church. A temporary church council was appointed and the following month, on June 14, the group met with the state superintendent and formally organized a congregational church with a post office address of Mentorville, Antelope County, Nebraska. On this date, June 14, 1885, the temporary organization was made permanent.

The following December, according to the church’s history, a meeting was called to plan for building a church and erected a site for the church and a cemetery. After much consideration, a site was chosen on which the church now stands. On April 6, 1886, a meeting was called to appoint a building committee and to decide the size of the building. It was acknowledged how the Gloversville church of New York would contribute building materials. Monies from New York State friends and a loan from the Congregational Union made it possible for the church to be constructed. One endowment was given by a man named Park and it was in his honor the Park Church was named. It as at this meeting the name of the church was changed to Park Congregational Church.

In November, 1886, the completed church was dedicated with several ministers participating.

In celebration of the centennial year, recipes were compiled “from loved ones of yesteryear and new homemakers of today,” the authors said in the centennial publication. “May those who use this book find it wonderfully rewarding to serve favorite foods which will be treasured and enjoyed by all.”

My husband grew up in the Park Center community and went to the nearby country school. I’ve attended many events there, including funerals and baptisms. It truly is a special place.

So I thought I’d look through the cookbook to find recipes for foundational recipes all busy moms and families use. This week, we will share their soup, salad and vegetable recipes. Not only are they easy to put together for the nighttime table they can be easy to whip up for potlucks. And who better to tell us their secrets than the ladies from Park Center in rural Elgin.


Hamburger soup by Sharon Wilkinson (my husband’s aunt)

2 pounds hamburger, browned

1 large onion, chopped

2 cups celery, diced

2 cups carrotsdiced

3 1/2 cups potatoes, diced

5 1/2 cups water

3 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 quart tomato juice

Simmer one hour or until vegetables are tender.


Perfection Salad by Mrs. Cecil Harmon

1 three-ounce package lemon Jello

2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup finely-shredded cabbage

1 cup finely diced celery

2 finely chopped pimentos

6 chopped sweet pickles

Prepare the Jello according to directions on package. Add the lemon juice and salt. Chill and when partially set add, add the vegetables. When partially set again, pour into a ring mold or 8-10 individual molds. Unmold on large chop plate or individual salad plates. Garnish with crisp lettuce, curly endive or lacy watercress. Service 8-10.


Tomato Salad by Elayne Kinney

1 gallon tomatoes, peeled and diced, but not scalded

2 cups onions, chopped

1/2 cup salt

Soak overnight. Drain.


3 peppers, chopped

2 cups chopped celery

2 tablespoons horseradish

1 tablespoon mustard seed

1 1/2 cups vinegar

1 1/2 cups sugar

Mix together. Can be cut in half.


Escalloped Cabbage by Mrs. Ella Kinney

4 cups cabbage

Salt (lightly)

Place in buttered casserole the cabbage and salt.

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon salt

Dash of pepper

Milk for thin white sauce (about 2 cups)

Blend butter and flour, add rest of ingredients. Cook until slightly thickened. Pour over cabbage. Sprinkle with buttered cracker crumbs. Cover lightly and baked 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until cabbage is tender and top slightly browned.


Candy Carrots by Jan Von Bonn

2 pounds carrots, cooked and diced

1/4 pound Velveeta cheese

1/4 cup oleo

1/4 cup brown sugar

Melt and mix together cheese, oleo and brown sugar. Then mix with carrots. Top with two handfuls of crushed corn flakes. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbles.




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