While poking around the Napa County Historical Society Library one day, I came across our small but exceptionally unusual collection of cookbooks. The one that immediately drew my eye is named “Cupid’s Book” and bears a handwritten note on its cover: “This book was handed out along with your marriage license in 1940.”
Although I was barely able to resist the temptation to pick up the phone and call John Tuteur, recorder-county clerk, to inform him of this great way to provide an extra service for Napa’s newlyweds, I could not resist the temptation to leaf through this beautiful little cookbook.
The book contains gift certificates from Meyer’s Jewelry Company, formerly at 1019 First St., just down the street from the Goodman Library; it also contains advertisements from Meyer’s offering wedding ring sets (called Wedding Ensembles) for $98, no money down, no interest, no carrying charges and only $2 a week.
Though the book does not have a publication date, it was published in Oakland. Our much-loved and used copy was donated by Margaret Hoover, longtime volunteer, supporter and member of the historical society.
Other cookbooks in our collection include:
• “Napa Valley Cook Book” by British War Relief (1941), “solicited by Great Britain’s Friends in Napa County, California to aid British War Relief.”
• “Mammy Pleasant’s Cookbook: A Treasury of Gourmet Recipes from Victorian America” (1970).
• “Gosh Mom!! You Gave Away Our Secrets! Old Napa Valley Recipes” by Vi Duhig. There is no publication date on this last one, but the accession date is 1983. The art work for the book was provided by Vi Duhig and Dorothy Soderholm, and Soderholm also did the calligraphy.
Notable items: The Napa Valley-produced cookbooks have an inordinately huge number of recipes using prunes. For newcomers to the valley, prunes were for many years our largest fruit crop. Included under the weird and wacky category are mayonnaise cake, German balls, voodoo magic and corn starch pudding. Yikes! The “way too much cholesterol” recipes include flank steak with frankfurter stuffing and creamed sweetbreads deluxe.
Stop by the Goodman Library at 1219 First St. to find a recipe for tonight’s dinner.
You can imagine how difficult it must have been to select only one recipe to share, but here is one for all of you who have always wondered how to make succotash.
2 cups cooked or canned kidney beans
1 1/2 cups canned corn
1 tbsp. minced green pepper
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
Combine ingredients and place in a casserole. Bake for 30 minutes in a moderate oven.
Nancy Levenberg is executive director of the Napa County Historical Society, which provides a monthly column for the Napa Valley Register. The society is in the Goodman Library at 1219 First St., Napa, and it’s open Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m., or by appointment. For information, call 224-1739 or visit NapaHistory.org.