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October 25, 2011 at 7:00 PM

Oldies but goodies: recipes clipped, saved, cherished

It’s plain as the cottage cheese in their Jell-O: I struck a chord last week when I wrote about newspaper-recipe archives, including thousands of clippings from a bygone era, indexed in an old card file in The Seattle Times newsroom.

Scores of readers responded, saying “Thanks for the memories!” and naming the recipes they’ve clipped, saved and cherished over the years.

“Those of us who are now older homemakers really loved those recipes,” said 82-year-old Marie Hall, a Boston native who’s been cooking and clipping in Seattle since 1955. Among her tattered treasures is Election Cake: “It was a favorite of Abraham Lincoln,” she said by phone. But it’s her Eisenhower-era Tamale Pie — a mixture of meat, corn, tomatoes and black olives — that’s gotten the most play in her kitchen. (You’ll find a more contemporary version here.) “I’m ashamed to tell you I put Jiffy cornbread mix on top and it’s good,” Hall admits, unashamed to add that these days she also adds a hit of cocoa to the meat mixture: “I got that from Nigella Lawson.”

Some day, I hope, we’ll scan these and they’ll all be available on line. Dreamin’ here! [Seattle Times/Courtney Blethen Riffkin]

“My all-time favorite newspaper recipe was from the Walla Walla Union Bulletin on October 1, 1950 — 61 years ago!” writes Rosemary Soper, who shared her long-loved recipe for Genuine Italian Meatballs. Now “threadbare” and encased in plastic covering “so it doesn’t get totally destroyed,” the clipping came courtesy of a certain Mrs. Robert Lamperti. “She is pictured (in her kitchen apron, of course) making the meatballs,” Soper said.

In 1954, notes Seattle Times food editor Sharon Lane, Mrs. O.T. Ritchie of Seattle won $500 in a nationwide newspaper contest for her Hot Crab Souffle recipe. Mrs. Ritchie later received so many requests for it, she asked the Times to publish the recipe. Done, in 1960. And again today, right here.

Susan Yahns is a fan of Nordstrom’s Nordy Bars, and unsure whether her old recipe came from the Times or the P-I — whose files now reside at Seattle’s Central Library. “I pasted the clipping onto a recipe card so it is in fairly good shape, just yellowed. I was the first to make these bars,” filled with butterscotch- and chocolate chips, pecans and miniature marshmallows, “but now my daughter makes some every Christmas to share with lucky friends and family.”

Ruth Neisinger’s go-to Christmas recipe is for Elegant White Fruitcake. “I cut it out of the Times many years ago,” she said. “Now my 88-year-old husband helps me make a double batch every year.”

Marilyn Page’s mother passed away in July. Among her effects were three recipe boxes. “I had fun going through them,” said Page, who later shared the contents with her brother, also an avid cook. Among her own stash of long-loved recipes is Chinese Barbecued Pork, submitted to the Times by Seattle chef Judy Lew. “For years, it was all anyone wanted me to bring to parties.”

“I have my grandmother’s and my mother’s stash of Seattle Times clippings, and recipes written in cursive dating back probably 50 years or more,” said Alexis Zolner. “I think of them, and the big dinners we used to have, every time I use one.” Anne Whitacre writes: “My mother clipped Seattle P-I, Seattle Times and Tacoma News Tribune recipes for 40 years and put them in notebooks — which I just gave to my nieces for their `archives.'”

I also heard from colleagues whose tenure has come and gone, but whose love of — and dedication to — Seattle’s foodways won’t be forgotten. After 23 years as a Times home economist, writes CeCe Sullivan, a recipe for Kahlua Baked Beans, one of thousands she tested in The Seattle Times newsroom kitchen, remains among her favorites.

Several readers gave a nod to the P-I’s popular “Bug Juice Chicken” recipe, brainchild of retired columnist John Owen. Coincidentally, I heard from Owen himself, who said his wife long ago gifted him with a set of antique mahogany card racks that today hold hundreds of recipe cards: the Bug Juice Chicken, a simple soy-based marinade, among them. (Stay tuned for that recipe in a subsequent blog-post.)

“I still use many of my standby recipes,” said Owen, 82, who wrote the “Intermediate Eater” column for the P-I (which spawned a series of self-published cookbooks) and today writes a weekly column for the Edmonds Beacon. “But invariably I will also check out Google. List the essential ingredients, push the button, and Google will usually spit out 20 or so more recipes fitting the recipe-profile.”

Yes, “there’s always the Internet,” adds his Magnolia contemporary Marie Hall, “but it’s not the one-to-one contact with the newspapers’ home economists, who were so helpful to young homemakers” back in the day.

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