Zucchini Cookbook Treasure

There are two things in life that relax me more than anything else – perusing thrift and antique stores and reading old cookbooks. When I find some cookbook treasures that lovingly contain notes, comments and private family recipes scribbled throughout the book…well that’s the thrift store jackpot!
I found one such culinary personal masterpiece in Connecticut while visiting the Vanderbilt Grace Inn & Spa. You can read about the Inn in the March issue of Capital Region Living Magazine online. It was an old Zucchini Cookbook produced by Garden Way in Troy. I had this cookbook already, like many in this area who either worked or had relatives at the tiller manufacturing company. I frankly picked it up because it was in better shape than my batter splattered relic but, to my delight, it was full of browned papers from age and painstakingly written notes and comments.
For the price of fifty cents, I found myself traveling into this lovely unknown woman’s kitchen to try endless squash recipes. I imagined that her family was never short of squash, perhaps from one of our local country home gardens. From the old newspaper clippings with recipes for zucchini, family notes and recipes for many of the same dishes but altered ever so slightly to reflect that relative’s taste buds, I learned much about this woman we will call Fran and her family and friends.
One of Fran’s recipes (there were 13 just for Zucchini Bread) was on an old note card from someone named, “mean Kathleen.” Mean Kathleen loved to spice up her Zucchini Bread. MK must have been a pip!
Many of the recipes were noted with ingredient quantity reductions so I imagine that cooking and baking needs reduced as her family aged and left the imagined country homestead. Sadly, I also notice a decline and shakiness to the notations on some cards tucked lovingly in the cookbook as well as in the book margins.
I would imagine that Fran loved to entertain, too. Her recipes from the ‘50s, before this particular cookbook was even published, indicated a woman looking for ease yet beauty in her finished dishes. One such recipe was for Imperial Garden Pie. She notes in parentheses that it is “soooo simple” and lovely to serve. It is made in a nine-inch pie plate and should only be cut when “entirely cool” to preserve the lovely slices.
The zucchini casseroles look filling and plentiful – some with meats and many just vegetarian delights. Bisquick was certainly a staple in Fran’s home too and used often in her cooking. I picture several of the tall boxes sitting in the pantry for her dumplings, pies and fritters.
Her Zucchini Crab cakes, however, are misleading as there is no mention of crab in the cakes. If I had a chance, I would let Fran know about this. As a fellow recipe collector and cooking dabbler, I would call them Zucchini Cakes. Oh that Fran!
I have grown to know Fran in many ways as I have all the other ladies who write in cookbooks for people of the next generation(s) to relish. I admire her cooking prowess and her meticulous manner in organizing recipes for future usage. And that Fran knew her way around a zucchini patch!