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“My Great-Great Grandmother’s Recipe Book”

I found my version of gold tucked away in an old drawer. It was a tiny black book. And when I read the cover, I had to know more.

So I investigated, and guess what I discovered… this was my great-great grandmother’s recipe book!

Her name was Evelyn Day Bruner. She lived in Brooklyn but was born in the mid-west.

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It’s tattered in a charming kind of way. “Well-used” shall we say…

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It’s frayed in all the right places, peeled and chipped to reveal the red under the black cover and gold script. I loved it immediately. I had to know more.

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It has a tassel for marking your place.

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And in case you were wondering, it is an “Elite” cooking recipe book. Not just an average one. I wonder if they sold a “non elite” version back in the 1800′s…

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She made all kinds of notes in here. One about silver polish. Maybe she read somewhere that it was a good kind. I think it says “Greenland’s?” I couldn’t find it online… maybe other people didn’t think it was as good…

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The book has all sorts of tabs so that you can categorize your recipes by type. She was very orderly about it and kept her recipes all in sections. I don’t think I inherited that trait.

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I have heard about this Brown Bread recipe my whole life. My great-grandmother made it also. I have never actually tasted it though. My grandmother makes something called Quick Bread, which I think is similar. I think I will finally make it.

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She has several Brown Bread recipes… steamed as well. She was really into this particular bread I think.

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And a simple dessert of tapioca, lemon juice, alcohol, sugar (or not!) and cream or milk. I like how she suggests no sugar. That definitely has been passed down through the generations, as seen in my grandmother’s love for stevia.

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Oh look, pot roast and my personal favorite, lamb stew. I wonder how it compares to the one I recently made

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Chicken Croquettes. It looks like she make some and dripped on the page.

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And an extra note she inserted into her book… I wonder what it is…

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Someone else’s Brown Bread! Someone named Mrs. Core. “Sometimes we cram as many chopped raisins and chopped nuts in as our conscience will allow.”

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Watermelon Pickles. I used to make these when I cooked in restaurants. They are pretty delicious and a way to save your watermelon rinds and do something useful with them. I’m glad she was so frugal and pickling things like that back then. Or rather I should say I’m glad we’re still pickling things now. They seemed to know how to save a preserve everything in those days…

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Another recipe for Tapioca. I like how she wrote “good” next to it. Her seal of approval.

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Cabbage Salad. And then another article she’s pasted to a page…

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…”Everything but Spinach.” What a great name for a recipe. “It practically pops with good health and is good, to boot.”

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Egg Salad, one of my favorites. Two dressings. Pineapple Salad, Waldorf Salad, and Tomato Salad. My grandmother makes pretty excellent dressing… I wonder if it’s this kind.

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Three more Brown Bread recipes! I guess they weren’t into the low-carb craze back then.

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Oyster Stuffing and Escoloped Oysters. Now we’re talking…

I like these simple ingredients… cracker crumbs.

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Milk Toast! It’s not just a word to describe a bland person, it is in fact a recipe which includes “scalded milk.” And if she was feeling fancy, she had Tomato Cream Toast.

Have you ever come upon family treasures like this before? It is like stumbling upon a bit of a time capsule, don’t you think?

I’m going to make some of these for you and we’ll see how they turn out… over 100 years later.

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Comments

  1. Maureen says:

    I wonder what her favorite dish was. How mant sections are there?

  2. What a find! Lots of material there for you. I look forward to reading about your adventures cooking the recipes and connecting with family history. I'm just curious whether this old book has a smell of its own.

  3. Christine says:

    Brown bread is very big in Ireland – was she Irish at all?

  4. Oh my gosh, how amazing! I found a single recipe once from my great grandmother and it was thrilling but a whole book…wow!

  5. What a treasure to come upon such a book. Georgia, I imagine you read the whole thing in one sitting and didn't realize how many hours went by until after you put it down…. My mother created a mini-cookbook for my brother when he moved away from home for good in 1977ish. It wasn't big or elaborate; it was for a guy in his early 20s who liked homemade food and didn't know how to make it. The recipes were pretty basic, too: meat loaf, beef stew, biscuits, spaghetti. My favorite parts were when my mom made little remarks that made perfect sense: "Simmer the green chile until it smells heavenly." See? Perfect sense.

    • Georgia says:

      Greg – It is a real treasure. The kind of stuff you can't buy, you know? A family member of mine in Texas just spearheaded a family recipe book project and collected recipes from all the family members still alive. We do it about once every 20 years so he used recipes from the last book for those who had passed. I think everyone should do it! My great great grandchildren will discover it one day : )

  6. Brown bread was a big deal with my grandmother. Seems like she always had some around.

  7. What is brown bread? Really quite an amazing find Georgia. I was thinking you should write down all the recipes in a computer so you have them & then have the recipe book preserved in a case or have it coated. It looks like time has already had it's way with the little treasure & you don't want it to wear any further!

  8. I'll chime in: so incredibly cool! You are so lucky to find such a treasure.

  9. marilyn says:

    An absoulte treasure, enjoy!

  10. Nancy Klune says:

    There is a small community in Christian Co. Mo named Bruner. It’s about 25 miles S.E. of Springfield. I wonder if there is a connection?

    I want to be like your grandmother in another 25 years.

    • That’s interesting… I’ll have to ask her. And I’ll tell her you said that, it will make her giggle : )

  11. This brought tears to my eyes. I have planned a trip in June to visit my Grandmother in Wisconsin, for gardening and cooking time. Your found recipe book got me all excited all over again. The handwriting looks similar to my grandmother… and I never want her recipes to be lost.
    Have so much fun with the ‘Brown Bread” too… I bet it is rad!

  12. What a treasure! You’re so lucky to have found it. I wonder, have you make her brown bread yet? The water mellon pickles sound interesting and delish at the same time, thanks for sharing!
    ~Caroline

  13. Wow this is just lovely. I’d LOVE to find something like this! Alas, my mother and grandmother are not really into cooking. They do the basics, thats it. And my other side has already passed and didnt write her recipes down, she memorised them all! The extended family are in Italy and Germany, so, no hand me down books here :-( But, I have managed to get two recipes that come from my great great great grandmother that my aunty remembered her mum making… YAYYY! I have written them down. Looks like I will be writing the family recipe book… and one day in 100 years my great great great great grandaughter might enjoy it :-)

  14. Such a great find, Georgia! My dear Nana (paternal grandmother) was not much of a cook. It’s kind of a family joke, bless her, because she faithfully made the meat-and-potatoes dinner her husband (my grandpa) required at 6 p.m. every night for 55 years. Anyway, one of my favorite treasures when she passed was a little cookbook she received when she was married in 1929. It also has a few of her penciled notes in the margins. Love it!

  15. I found your website quite by accident, but I am very glad I did! My boy friend and I are preparing to move to the wilderness and live , self-sufficient, off the grid the way our ancestors did. Your sight may be helpful in several ways. Thanks for letting women know we are capable of alot more than fast foods and “city produce stand” fresh. We can kill it, clean it, cook it and LOOK GOOD DOIN’ IT!!!