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Category: Fun Stuff

Old Recipes

These were in that box. The box that sells for $1 and contains history and stories untold.

I’m a sucker for that box at an estate sale. You know the box, the one they throw all the cruft into, the stuff they don’t think will sell by itself. Every orphan item goes into the box meant for a quick sale: little ceramic shepherds, a tin of hairpins, a couple of small frames with broken glass and dented sides, a chipped mug.

The contracted auctioneers are required to sell everything, and if they think an item will slow the sale down, it goes in the box.

That’s my box. The best box is near all the kitchen stuff because it usually has all the old cookbooks and loose recipes. I mean OLD cookbooks. Early pots and pans and kitchen gadgets (electric skillets and blenders, etc.) and certain food products (I’m thinking Jell-O, Bisquick, etc.) used to provide commercially produced recipes featuring their products. Those go in the box. The torn, worn cookbooks go in the box. Sometimes there are scraps of handwritten recipes stuck in the books. Sometimes there are pages torn out of books that no longer exist.

My prize purchase from one of these sales is a very old, very worn cigar box mostly full of recipe clippings as well as a couple of handwritten ones. Carefully pinning the recipe and any artwork together with a straight pin, some long-ago homemaker treasured dreams of fancy dinner parties featuring Jellied Salmon Loaf and Orange Charlotte for dessert.

As I read through them, I try to picture the husband, home from a typical day at the office or dusty from farm work, or weary from a day of selling useless products. He greets his wife, peels off his work jacket, “washes up,” and sits down to a meal that opened with Jellied Shrimp Salad and went on to feature Stuffed Eggplant, or Beef-Hash Pudding, or Macaroni Loaf.

Some notable examples of the types of recipes I found in the box:

Hunter’s Salad: one can of peas, three tablespoons of chopped cheese, three tablespoons chopped onion, three tablespoons sweet pickles, one cup chopped nut meats. Put together with salad dressing.

Celery and Dried Beef au Crème: “Cut celery in small pieces and cook in boiling salted water until tender; add to Libby’s Dried Beef creamed. Arrange on a plate and garnish with parsley.”

Hawaiian Salad for Gala Occasions): “Never have you seen such a novel and delicious salad, so easy to prepare. Border a salad bowl with crisp lettuce leaves. Then fill the center with Libby’s luscious, sliced pineapple. Garnish with strips of Libby’s piquant pimientos and serve with light mayonnaise. Try it once and you will serve it often.”

Some of the cookbooks also include household tips, and those are just as fascinating as the old recipes. For instance, one book describes how to care for “barb wire cuts,” which are “often deep, and contain germs that will cause blood poison if not take care of promptly.” Hidden in these hints are subtle advertisements for things like Barb Wire Liniment, Kristol Salve, and F.W. McNess’ Sarsaparilla and Burdock blood purifier.

Strangely enough, all the health hints involve products supplied by F.W. McNess Co.

It becomes evident that this particular “cookbook” was a giveaway provided by the F.W. McNess, Co., maker of Sanitary Medicines. The pamphlet includes recipes from satisfied customers because “most of our customers’ eat to live’ even if they don’t ‘live to eat.’”

What fascinates me about the recipes in this book is that there are ingredients but no cooking times or temperatures, presumably because wood-fired stoves and ovens ruled the kitchens. I had to assume from these recipes that any experienced cook would know when to pull food from the stove. Based on some deeply ingrained instinct developed over the years of cooking in her overheated kitchen, she could feel temperatures and know the moment.

One word is liberally used in the clipped recipes I found in the old cigar box:  “gelatin.” I was reasonably sure these recipes came from the 1950s due to the sheer quantity of recipes containing the words gelatin or jellied or aspic.

You don’t want to know what is involved in gelatin production (or what gelatin is), but I will say this natural food product, a great source of protein, has been around for centuries. It’s not an easy product to produce. In the 1890s, a man named Charles Knox watched his wife go through the laborious process and developed an “instant” powdered version that was probably instrumental in building the popularity of jellied foods. Even today, we can still find Knox Gelatin in the supermarket.

By the 1950s, gelatin was a staple of American cuisine. Those ladies “jellied” everything from salmon to rice to fruit to carrots to eggs.

I probably won’t be using any of the recipes from the box since I’m not a fan of gelatin, but it has been fun sifting through them to judge what our ancestors were eating. It turns out we’re not so inventive as we thought with our cheeseburger pizzas and our deep-fried pickles and our baked ice cream and our chocolate-covered bacon.

The More Things Change

The San Francisco Call, June 24, 1903

First you need to understand how research can go sideways, literally. The researcher usually has a goal, a fact or a hunch that needs to be proven. This is probably a lot like fishing (though I don’t fish). One goes out to catch a fish, maybe even a specific type of fish, but once one throws the line into the water, all fish are fair game, and the sportsman is just as likely to catch a boot or an underwater branch. At least, that’s been my experience, which is why I don’t fish.

In genealogy, a name is not a name. For instance, I’m currently looking into the Collings line of my family, but I also have to hunt for Collins, Kollings, Kolin, etc. I have to cast a very wide net, catch what looks reasonable and throw the rest back.

The other day I cast my net and as I waded through some 332 possible stories, I got sidetracked. Very sidetracked. The first 50–75 stories were relevant but mostly stories I had already seen, so I decided to keep going in the hope of stumbling across something new.

I got totally lost. My plan for the day disappeared as I stumbled onto an old newspaper front page from 1903 San Francisco and what I discovered is the world hasn’t changed much in 113 years.

I present to you a sampling of headlines and news stories from a weirdly familiar past: “White Insects Worry Farmers,” “Decent Burial Denied Paupers,” “Child Thought Dead is Found,” “Bigamy Charge May Be Result,” “Brisk Wooing Ends in an Elopement,” and just to prove times don’t change: “Hordes of Aliens Still Pouring In” a story about 521,320 immigrants entering the country (mostly legally, I might add).

How can you read those headlines and not want to know the rest of the story? For instance, consider the elopement story. (Note: I’m hoping the copyrights have expired, because I must share the full article, but I will credit these excerpts from The San Francisco Call, June 24, 1903) :

Walla Walla, June 24 – A brisk wooing terminated yesterday afternoon in the elopement of fifteen-year-old Zella Masse with Henry C. Stewart, a man twice her age and who is proprietor of the Northwestern Music Company of this city. Stewart, accompanied by a stranger giving his name as Ross Leslie, appeared in the Auditor’s office at 3 o’clock and secured a license, Leslie swearing that the bride-to-be was eighteen years of age. The girl went to Stewart’s room and changed her short dress for a traveling suit. Immediately after the ceremony they drove to the depot and took the 3:30 o’clock train for Pendleton.

The girl’s father, a wealthy retired farmer, in company with Sheriff Painter, started after the couple last night. Masse swears that he will have his son-in-law arrested on a charge of abduction.

And then there was this tiny filler (by the way, a “footpad” is a robber who is on foot as opposed to on horseback, I looked it up):

Port Richmond, June 24 – While James P. Arnold and his partner, M. W. Truitt, were on their way home last night between 10 and 11 o’clock they were held up near G. A. Dimick’s place on East Richmond avenue by an armed footpad. As they had a large amount of money with them, however, they took no chances on being shot and ran when ordered to hold up their hands. The would-be robber failed to fire and his intended victims escaped without injury.

Traffic accidents appeared to be a problem in 1903:

Oakland, June 24 – Herbert Kaphin, the driver of a butcher wagon, was the victim of a runaway accident this morning which came nearly ending disastrously. His horse ran away and his wagon collided with a car standing at Tenth and Washington streets and he was thrown to the ground and found to be suffering from concussion of the brain. He was removed to the Receiving Hospital and later was able to go to his home at 854 Alice street. The horse was caught uninjured.

A story that could be on the front page of any paper today tells of how the growth of the community is taxing the infrastructure. Even the headline is timely: “Suburbanites Good Boomers.” The story describes the problems of growth by calling for better roads: “Every night and all night long on the one avenue leading from San Mateo County to San Francisco a stream of teams conveying the produce of our rural country struggle in the dark on the heavy road to reach the market of San Francisco. We need these improvements from every standpoint that common sense can indicate, and never so much as now.”

Finally, another timely story about a child born to an unwed mother. She was told by officials after delivery that her child was blind and otherwise physically disabled and must be placed in a public institution. The story goes on to describe a chance meeting, some years later, between the mother and one of the attendants at the birth:

…and the nurse asked Mrs. Nicholson about the baby, and she told her it was dead.

“Why, no it isn’t; some people out in West Berkeley are taking care of it,” was the woman’s reply, and an investigation was begun which resulted in the discovery of the boy, now 3 years and 8 months old.

In the meantime, Mrs. Nicholson has been married to the father of the boy, and they are bending their efforts to recover the child they have mourned all these years as dead. Owing to the fact that Judge Melvin is going East on Monday for his vacation the hearing of the habeas corpus matter could not be heard until his return a month hence, and the case was continued until that time.

Finally, a little medical advice that might also seem timely, here’s an ad which looks more like a news tidbit headlined: “To Cure a Cold in One Day.”

Take Laxative Bromo Quinine Tablets. Druggists refund money if it fails to cure. E.W.Grove’s sig. on each box. 25c.”

Large Arch

Moore was inspired by Stonehenge and the shoulders of a man, but sometimes the Arch appears to be marching across the plaza.

In the early 1970’s the Henry Moore sculpture Large Arch was installed in front of the Bartholomew Co. Public Library.

At the time, I fancied myself a poet. I sat on the steps of the library one day and just watched the public as they came to see and experience the new addition to the Columbus art scene.

This past Sunday I went down to visit the Arch and sit in the sun and as I did so, I remembered the poem. When I got home, I dug it out and read it and decided it wasn’t too bad…thought I’d share it and some photos I took.


the Arch 

Massive at all angles.

Sun warm stronglydown on me and on

the Arch as we(he and I—theArchandi)

watch the People(little ant beings)


pausing to lOOK at him

But taking most of them no time to see

because time it takes to see and any

time taken they resent. Somemostly

Sl o wl y t o touch the surprising warm green of him

children t o u c h him—reaching o u t

Sl   o   wl y t o touch the surprising

warm green of him

and those who t o u c h him seehim.

But so many neverdoneversee

By nevertouching neverknow

Just Some Words


Not feeling especially inspired this week, but I feel I owe myself to keep writing, so I gathered together some quotes and thoughts on words.

I love words, their meanings, their twisted logic. If you think about language and just how far we have come from the prehistoric grunts of our ancestors, you should be amazed at the number of words and meanings we have developed to attempt to communicate.

And yet so often we fail. Maybe we forget that words are just words without meaning and context to go with them. I started thinking about this the other day when I was watching a news clip about a project that brought criminal offenders and victims face to face.

Victims of crimes are often full of hate and the need for revenge, while criminals are often remorseless and defiant. Yet in many cases, with the proper preparation, bringing the two together to talk out the issues of why a crime occurred and/or how the crime has affected both parties, a sort of calm acceptance can take place.

It is the combination of words, physical presence and eye contact that equals communication. Let’s try to remember that.

Anyway, off my soapbox and on to the fun side of words. Hope you enjoy the following “facts” about words and language. If you do and let me know, maybe I’ll find some more fun facts!

Fun with Words

It took the editors of the first “Oxford English Dictionary” five years to reach the word “ant.”

Umchina, a Korean term meaning “mom’s friend’s son,” is used to describe a person who’s better at everything than you are.

Editor Bennett Cerf challenged Dr. Seuss to write a book using no more than 50 different words. The result? “Green Eggs and Ham.”

The Scots have a word for that panicky hesitation you get when you can’t remember someone’s name: tartle.

Tsundoku is the act of acquiring books or other reading materials and not reading them.

The term “lawn mullet” means having a neatly manicured front yard and an unmowed mess in the back.

Many years ago, “jay” was slang for “foolish person.” So when a pedestrian ignored street signs, he was a “jaywalker.”

In 1974, the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis published a paper titled “The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Case of ‘Writer’s Block’.” It contained a total of zero words.

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words.

Javier Santana writes:

In Spanish, French and Italian, “decisions” are something you “take” like a train that leads you somewhere new, whereas in English you “make” them like little pieces of your own creation. But in German you “meet” them, like friends.

Aren’t languages beautiful?

Yes, they are.

Thankful Thursday

The best way to know something is to look it up!

The writer Philip Gulley cracks me up. Gulley has written several books and he also writes a monthly column in the city magazine, Indianapolis. His take on life is a wry, dry, take-life-as-it-comes sort of wide-eyed optimism that I can fully identify with. He can see the humor in every situation…even if that humor is ironic and off kilter.

I recently read an article Gulley wrote about being without the internet for three days. The article featured a litany of things he never had in his childhood and early life, but now cannot live without. (Spoiler alert, the internet was not one of them.) It might help you to understand Gulley to know that bungee cords were prominent on this list.

Anyway, the article (and this being November, the month of thankfulness (in spite of elections)) got me thinking about things I use in my life and for which I am not sufficiently thankful.

Google came to mind. I doubt that there are any of my readers who don’t know what Google is, but I try to use my mom as my target audience and she would require a bit of explanation if I started any conversation with the word Google, so let me briefly explain the noun/verb Google.

To do that, I’ll have to use Google. According to Wikipedia (that’s a definition for another day), in technical terms, Google is a search algorithm developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Development began sometime around 1996, and at the time it was being developed, Google was tentatively named “BackRub.” I do not know why. No one ever should try to guess where these technical types come up with names for their projects. Anyway, the company that became Google was actually launched in 1998.

I can imagine a sort of blank look as I make this very unhelpful explanation to my mom…what’s a search algorithm? Let’s see. My aunt was a librarian for all the years of my childhood. If I ever had to know anything, I could catch a ride downtown and climb the stone steps of the Carnegie library in my town. At the top of the steps, I entered a very special world with its own special smell and a quiet, peaceful authority. My aunt’s office was behind an official looking wooden checkout desk and I had the special dispensation to walk up to that desk and ask if Aunt Kathryn was available. She always was. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was in for everyone…I had no special “in” with her.

I could ask Aunt Kathryn anything. She didn’t know everything, but here’s the thing…she knew how to find out anything. And she didn’t just give me an answer to my question, she pointed me to the card catalogue or the reference section which gave me, not an answer, but several answers, from which I could draw my own choice answer, right or wrong.

That’s Google.

You ask Google a question, any question, and Google will go out on the internet and search for an answer. It will usually return hundreds of thousands of possible answers, but based on that algorithm we don’t really understand, the best answer to your question can usually be found in the first 5 or 6 possible answers.

This service does not cost a penny, but there are some pretty significant costs for using it. Just so you know, Google keeps track of your searches and of you, and you are likely to see an ad for whatever you last searched for pop up on the next internet page that loads. Lately, I’ve notice that when I go to a brick and mortar store and look at a particular item, that item also pops up in future ads on my internet. I’m not sure how that happens, but I think that’s Google, too.

The lesson is that, sort of like I wouldn’t ask Aunt Kathryn for certain bits of knowledge I did not want shared with my Mom, I don’t ask Google everything I want to know.

Thanks, Mr. Gulley, for making me think about this. Google is great and it’s one of the things I am thankful for this November.

Even if it does scare me just a little.

Things I found out from Google when researching this blog:

A Carnegie library is a library built with money donated by Scottish businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. At one point there were over 3,500 Carnegie libraries in the US. I was disappointed to find that Google couldn’t tell me how many are actually still in operation today. The one in my hometown, Aunt Kathryn’s library is.

Philip Gulley lives in Danville, Indiana. He’s a Quaker pastor who is the son of a Catholic mother and a Baptist father. That right there is grist for a lot of stories! He’s a writer and a front porch philosopher with a very Hoosier outlook on life. There’s a lot more about him online, you can Google him if you want to know!

The name Google is a variant of googol, a word that sort of means very large numbers.

There are at least 14 other search engines you can use besides Google. I also like Dogpile and Duck Duck Go (as I said, don’t ask me to explain where tech people come up with these names…but you could Google that, too).

Just Smile

Sometimes silly humor is all we need to brighten our day.

This is a true story of a sorta bad day turned kinda nice by one guy with a simple mission, and I think it’s important to share.

Bad days come in all shapes and flavors and this one was just mildly bad…troublesome traffic, stores that didn’t have what I needed, annoying phone calls, a schedule that could not be conquered.

I don’t often eat in at fast food restaurants. Fast food is something you grab to take home, but on this day, for some reason, maybe because I was starving and yet had more errands to run, I decided to eat in. It was the middle of the afternoon, there were only two cars in the lot. I thought this could be pretty quick and I’d be on my way.

As I entered, a young man who had been mopping the floor held the door for an elderly woman in front of me and then for me. As we entered, he cautioned us about the wet floor.

He came in the store behind us, went behind the counter, washed up and then took our orders. The elderly woman (I’m old, but I’m not elderly yet!) went on to get her drink and her meal. I ordered and as I fumbled for my money, the young man started telling jokes: “Do you know what the fish said when it swam into the concrete wall?” “No.” “Dam!” said the young man. I smiled, handed him my money and prepared to move on…but not before he got off a couple more pretty good jokes.

After I got my drink and my meal, my mind was full of muttering about the day I was having when I noticed that the young man had come out from behind the counter and was finishing his mopping. As he went past me, he said, “You’re probably going to get tired of me, but I have a million more…” and he proceeded to tell me about the guy who went to a costume party with a girl strapped to his back. The host said “this is a costume party, what are you doing?” “This is my costume…I’m a turtle.” “But you have a girl strapped to your back.” “I know…that’s Michelle.”

Now that one made me chuckle, and by this time, I was feeling less stressed about my day, so I asked him how he came up with all these jokes. I never expected what I learned next.

He’d been in a serious accident some years earlier, suffered pretty critical injuries, some brain damage. Unable to work or care for himself while recovering, he moved back in with his mom. After many months, as he got stronger, he began volunteering at a food site and over time was hired as a permanent part time worker at the site. When he was able to go back to work, he continued to work at the meal site and also got a job as a cashier at a dollar-type store.

He said that as he worked with the public, he began to realize that everyone had their problems. In his words, “You only encounter these people for a short time, you don’t know when they go out the door, what kind of life they’re going back to. So, I figured if I could just put a smile on their face, it might be the highlight of their day. When I worked the checkout, I even carded a lady for toilet paper.” “Did she laugh?” I asked. “No, she got pretty ticked, (comic pause) …but her boyfriend thought it was hilarious!”

I know one thing for sure, that guy, in his humble job at a fast food restaurant, sure put a smile on my face that day, and I left with a renewed appreciation of the fact that since we don’t know what kind of life others have, we should just go with “Be kind. Make someone smile.” What can it hurt? We may be the highlight in their day.

Some Days You Just Can’t Stay Off the Internet

You know how it is. You’re just about to sign off and something catches your eye, makes you go “Huh?” and you’re hooked for another hour or so. The other day I scanned a news item about the new laws that would go into effect in Indiana on July 1 and had just such a moment.

Illustration by Arwin Provonsha, Purdue Department of Entomology

It wasn’t the announcement of a new state insect…I have a real soft spot for Say’s Firefly, also known as pyractomena angulate or more commonly here in southern Indiana the lightning bug. Great choice. There’s nothing like a summer evening, dusk falling, kids still out playing and then…that first flash. Then another. Suddenly the kids are running around, jumping in the air, begging for jars with holes punched in the lid. What kid hasn’t dreamed of collecting enough lightning bugs to fill a jar and light their room at night? Lightning bugs are the most benign, gentle and rewarding bugs I know.

But the notice that the lightning bug is now Indiana’s official state insect isn’t what caught my eye (no pun intended). What actually grabbed my attention was the new law that makes eyeball tattoos illegal.


I asked a young co-worker about this and it turns out this is a very real “thing,” tattooing one’s eyeball. I was young once, and I did some very stupid things both as a youngster and as a supposedly mature adult, but two questions come to mind…1) who would want this done and 2) who would agree to do it? Oh, and question #3…what could possibly go wrong?

Anyway, this triggered an interest in seeing what other wacky laws got passed this year, so here are some interesting ones:

Sunscreen: Public school students are allowed to carry and use non-aerosol sunscreen without having to provide a doctor’s note to their school or store their sunscreen in a specific school location. School personnel also can help students apply sunscreen with the written permission of the student’s parent. (Senate Enrolled Act 24)

It’s just a shame when common sense has to be legislated, don’t you think?

Soft Skills: Indiana schools must include employability skills in their curriculum, beginning in the 2019-20 school year. The specific “soft skills” to be taught, such as on-time arrival and ability to take direction, will be decided by the Indiana Department of Education and Department of Workforce Development. (Senate Enrolled Act 297)

Seems a shame we have to have a law to teach these skills…and have to mandate the schools to do it…just saying’.

Cursive: School corporations are explicitly authorized to teach cursive handwriting as an optional curriculum component. That’s already been the practice since 2011 when keyboarding instruction replaced cursive in the state’s educational standards. (House Enrolled Act 1420)

Whew! They haven’t outlawed cursive yet and schools can teach it if they want to. Good to know and also good to know there is a law to make that clear!

And my personal favorite:

Obsolete Words Eliminated: The words “herein, hereafter, hereinafter, therein, theretofore, hereunder, hereinunder, heretofore, hereinabove and thereunder” are replaced throughout the Indiana Code with simpler terms. State officeholder duties are revised to eliminate gender-specific pronouns. (HEA 1031)

I have nothing sarcastic to say about this, except maybe, it’s about time!

If you want to know more about what has become legal or illegal in Indiana as of July 1, 2018, you can go to The Indiana Lawyer website at:


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