The Deliciously Dirty Pages — Dedicating knowledge of food back to our teachers, our moms

The Deliciously Dirty Pages — 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.


Today’s recipes: dedicating knowledge of food back to our teachers, our moms

This past weekend was Mothers Day and as I looked through my cookbooks for this week’s inspiration, I saw page 1 of a very old church cookbook which, right away, told me what I think we all already know: Pretty much everything we know about food and cooking started with our very first teachers, our moms.

On Page 1, Elaine Koenig (who was on the cookbook committee) wrote, “With love, this book is dedicated to our mothers who taught us how.”

And she shared the following sentiment:

“You can’t spoil me now

With the things you made when we came home

But I remember when

With your apron tied up under my arms

Because it was too long

You taught me how to cook.

The love of cooking started then and

I think of you when

I make these familiar dishes

That remind of the good times

We share around the table.

You taught me that the best part of cooking

Is in the sharing.”

The cookbook committee included a whole section of the cookbook – again, right at the beginning – to showcase their mothers’ and grandmothers’ most special recipes, as well as one from a celebrity pioneer we all know and love.

Let’s dig into the secrets of the mothers:


Devil’s Food Cake from Margaret Funk, who noted her mother got this recipe from a close friend back in 1927

2 tablespoons cocoa dissolved in ½ cup boiling water

2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs, do not beat

2 cups flour for layers, 2 ¼ cups for loaf

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup thick sour cream

1 teaspoon soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

(Note: there are no other instructions, so Margaret must have assumed we all know what to do, which I would assume is mix the wet, mix the dry, combine and bake until a toothpick comes out clean after being inserted).


Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Gingerbread

The woman who shared this wrote, “A favored recipe of the beloved author of The Little House” books. This recipe is quoted exactly as given.”

One cup brown sugar blended with ½ cup shortening, ½ cup molasses mixed well with this. 2 teaspoons baking soda in 1 cup boiling water. Be sure the cup is full of water after foam runs off into cake batter. Mix all well.

To 3 cups flour add 1 teaspoon each of the following: ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves and ½ teaspoon salt. Sift all into the mixture and mix well. Add lastly 2 well-beaten eggs. This mixture should be quite thin.

Bake in moderate oven for 30 minutes. Raisins or candied fruit may be added, and a chocolate frosting adds to the goodness.


Maple Sugar Icing taken from the Randolph Cookbook in 1902, compiled by The Ladies Aid Society of the Baptist Church, Randolph, NE

Melt 1 cup of maple sugar in ½ cup water. Boil until it grains, then beat in the white of a slightly beaten egg. Stir to a smooth cream and spread while warm.

(The person who shared this recipe also said, “My grandfather always had a gallon pail of maple sugar sent to him from Vermont every year.”)


Grandma Thiede’s Mince Meat

$.25 worth (2 lbs) brown sugar

$.25 worth (3 cups) white sugar

1 gal. chopped, ground fine, apples

1 gal. chopped or ground meat, cooked

½ gal. suet, optional

1 ½ lbs. raisins

1 tablespoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon cloves

2/3 quart vinegar (2 2/3 cups)

1 ½ lbs. currants

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon allspice

1 qt. molasses

$.10 worth of white crackers, 48-60 small individual squares

Grind ½ of the raisins and currants and leave ½ whole. Nothing is cooked but the meat. Simmer one hour, put in jars, hot and seal. Burns easily. Or pressure can for 10 minutes at 10 pounds.

(My personal note and full disclosure: I have never made this, I have never eaten this, I’m not sure I want to do either. I just included it because I loved how the recipe assigns ingredients by the low-cost quantities.)


Sun Dried Corn

The Christian Mother who provided this recipe wrote, “It has a distinctive flavor and was on Thanksgiving menus in the good old days. This was handed down to me by my Grandmother Webb, who was raised on a Cherry County ranch as a bridge lived in the Pawnee City area.”

Pick a day when the sun is hot. Remove husks and silk from ears of sweet corn. Cook corn in boiling, salted water for 5 minutes or until milk sets in kernels. Remove corn from water and cool until you can handle it. Cut kernels off cobs, spread corn in single layer in shallow pan and cover with clean cloth. Put pan in direct sunlight until kernels dry thoroughly. Brin pan into house at night. It usually takes 2 days or more of hot sunshine to dry. Store dried corn in clean, covered jars at room temperature. Should remain in good condition for 6 months or longer. To cook corn: Rinse with cold water, drain. Cover with cold water and let stand overnight. Cook in boiling water, salted to taste, until kernels are tender, about 30 minutes. Drain corn and season with cream, butter or honey. Serve hot. It is also excellent for scalloped corn or corn pudding.


Another beautiful aspect of this cookbook, included in the mothers’ section, are some household hints:

A Trick With Your Blender by Mrs. John Kaster

If you are out of powdered sugar, make your own in the blender using granulated sugar and cornstarch: 1 cup granulated sugar plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch, run blender until mixture feels like powdered sugar.


What To Do When You Run Out of Vacuum Bags by Mrs. John Kaster

If you used your last vacuum bag, take full bag out of cleaner, cut off closed end, empty, then sew or staple shut again. Can be used again for several cleanings.


Life’s Recipe by Janice McLain

1 cup good thoughts

1 cup kind deeds

3 cups forgiveness

2 cups well beaten faults

1 cup consideration for others

Mix these thoroughly, add tears of joy and sorry and sympathy for others. Fold in 4 cups of prayers and faith to lighten other ingredients and raise texture to a great height of Christian Living. After pouring all this into your daily life – bake well with the heat of human kindness. Serve with a smile.


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