Lena’s home cooking

Among the items in a set of family documents that we recently received is a small ledger book with a tattered green cover. Notes indicate that it may have belonged to my great-grandmother Lena’s father Peter Schneider, though the contents do not confirm this. There are accounting entries in the book dating back to 1876, apparently the only year in which it was used for this purpose.

At some point the book was taken up by other individuals, obviously women, and put to other purposes. We think these women were my great-grandmother Lena Betz, her mother Francis Schneider (nee Becker), and her young daughter Marie Betz who was often responsible for helping with chores such as cleaning, caring for her younger siblings, and cooking. Near the back of the book are written twenty or so pages of recipes for different dishes. Many of the recipes are in different hands, and it is possible that all three women as well as various friends and relatives contributed their favorites. There is even one entry in a combination of English and German with mixed kurrent and latin characters, which we have not tried to decipher yet. This would likely be a contribution from Francis, who was born in Germany.

Not all of the recipes are complete. Some are no more than lists of ingredients. Perhaps the steps to combine and cook them were thought well known, or the author didn’t need to remind herself of that part of the process. Some are common dishes, like chicken salad, and others are quite odd, such as the remedy for a back ache that includes powdered bulbs of a lilly, or a kind of spicy vegetable stew called Spanish Pickle. There is even a pretty complete recipe for Mandelschnitten, a popular German almond cookie.

Taken together the handwritten recipes offer a homely insight into the type of food our ancestors valued, and how they went about preparing it. The period we have assigned to them, early 1900’s, is nothing more than a guess. These entries could have been made any time after 1876, and only Lena’s involvement would have necessarily ended with her death in 1923. Entries could have been added since. On the whole, however, it seems likely she was responsible for the book, and since she married in 1900 it’s not going too far out on a limb to suggest that it was about this time that she began to take an active daily interest in cookery.

To view the recipes click on one of the links below. Each link leads to a post with an image of the original page(s) in the ledger book, and below the images a transcription of the text. With regard to the transcriptions, I have written the recipes exactly as they are set down in the book. No interpretation or explanation is given. Not being a cook I could hardly provide one. For most recipes I think there is enough information that an inquisitive chef could make out what to do.

Also note that many of the scanned pages contain more than one recipe, so individual posts are linked to multiple times below.

The Recipes


Looking for Louis


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