Friday, August 29, 2008

A Cup of This and a Cup of That

This week I've been spending some time with a book that Mom gave to me, after Dad passed away, in 1997. On the first page, in three different handwritings, are my grandpa's name and an address in San Pedro, CA; the name W.P. Ward and his address in Long Beach, CA; and, the last name written on the page is my dad's, with no address. I have no idea who Mr. Ward was, but he, apparently, owned this book at one time.

On that first page, beneath the signatures, is a note which reads, "The binding of this book, Du Pont Fabrikoid, will wear indefinately (sic) and keep its beauty. It will not scuff nor stain, is waterproof and can be washed without injury."

The title of the book is The Master Baker's Manual for Bakeries, Hotels, Restaurants, Hospitals and Other Institutions. It was published by Calumet Baking Powder Company, Chicago, Illinois. Price $5.00.

The copyright date is 1930. I guess that statement about the quality of the binding was true, for it is 78 years old, and is still in perfect condition. Although the pages are yellowed with age and there is a dusting of flour on the cover and between the pages, every page is still securely stitched in place.

On page 46 is a pressed flower. I believe it is a viola, which looks like a very tiny pansy. I wonder who put it there? My guess is that either Dad or Grandpa used it as a model to make icing flowers for a special-order decorated cake.

On the blank pages at the end of the book are some hand-written recipes, one for "Bible Cake" which has ingredients such as raisins, figs and honey. And, on a lined page is some calligraphy in green ink. I've seen similar calligraphy in another hand-written recipe book (that I have, as well) that belonged to Grandpa, so I'm certain it is his work. He worked hard at these beautiful scripts so that he could do them in icing when he decorated cakes.

That second little book that I just mentioned is a 4" x 6" black binder, full of Grandpa's formulas (that's bakers' terminology for "recipes"). It is well worn, and has a lot of little scraps of paper and oddities stuck in between the pages. One of the inserts is a Pacific Telephone bill, from San Francisco, dated March 11, 1959. The current month's charges (not including a remaining balance from the last bill) total 41 cents. To me, this little book is a treasure.

The recipes in these books are wonderful, but are not meant to be made at home. For example, the Hot Milk Sponge Cake includes, among other ingredients, 4 pounds of cake flour and 4 pounds (2 quarts) of eggs. Once all of the ingredients are mixed in, it ends up as 17-1/4 pounds of batter. I've learned that reducing recipes of this size to a household amount seldom produces a quality product (for some reason).
But there's something very touching and nostalgic about reading through these books, seeing my Grandpa's and Dad's hand-written notes, and remembering how I watched them make these wonderful baked goods from scratch. In case any of you don't know it, there are few if any bakeries left that do that. Some modern-day baked good are made from mixes (just add water, etc.), and many come all prepared and frozen (just pop in the oven for 25 minutes). I think it's sad that so many people today have never tasted quality baked goods from a master baker.

That's all for today. No conclusion. No humorous story. Just a little rambling about a couple of things that I hold dear, not because of what they are, but because of whose they were.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, Dear Linda, I recall your grandpa sitting in his chair in the evening, practicing those besutifully written letters. He was quite talented, as was your Dad. I am so happy that you treasure those books. Your Dad and Grandpa would be so proud.