The Settlement Cookbook: The Way to a Man’s Heart
by Mrs. Simon Kander
The Settlement Cook Book Co., 1949. 623 pages.
I come from a long line of cooks. My paternal grandmother was famous for her chocolate cakes, and my father was always trying out a new recipe and tweaking old ones. One of his favorite cookbooks was Mrs. Simon Kander’s The Settlement Cook Book.
The edition I have is from 1949. It could have well been my grandmother’s. The yellow cover has faded, the binding is torn and has been taped. The pages are yellow and there are several thumbstains. It’s a book that’s been used over and over again. According to the cover page this is the 29th edition–enlarged and revised. The first one was published in 1901!
Not knowing much about Kander, I went ahead Googled both her and the cookbook. What I learned from the Historic Cookbook Projects was that her full name was Lizzie Black Kander, a community service leader and cookbook author. Below is her full bio along with information about the cookbook:
In her twenties, Kander began working to help Jewish immigrants -comprised mainly of Russian Orthodox Jews arriving in large numbers-overcome poverty and adjust to American ways. She joined the Ladies Relief Sewing Society, where she collected used clothes and repaired them for needy families. As president of the society in 1894-95, she expanded the group’s activities and philosophy, making personal contact between volunteers and immigrants a priority. Their name changed to the “Keep Clean Mission” in 1895 and quickly changed again to the Milwaukee Jewish Mission (1896) as activities expanded beyond lecturing children on cleanliness, to include industrial education, sewing, paperwork, painting and drawing. In 1900 the Mission, under Kander’s direction, merged with another Jewish charity, the Sisterhood of Personal Service, to form Milwaukee’s first settlement called simply “The Settlement.” Settlements — institutions founded by educated, affluent citizens to provide services within a congested urban area – were already established by this time in Chicago (Hull House) and New York City (University Settlement). Kander succeeded in attracting financial and volunteer support for “The Settlement” from Milwaukee’s Federated Jewish Charities. As president from 1900 to 1918, she expanded the educational services to assist children and adults, recent Jewish immigrants and long-time citizens. There were night classes in English and American history, instruction in Hebrew, a mothers’ class, athletic and cultural clubs for children, a lending library, a savings bank, a gymnasium and public baths.
The first edition of 1,000 copies of The Settlement Cookbook: The Way to a Man’s Heart appeared in 1901, and was an immediate success. Since assimilation necessitated adjustments between Jewish and American culinary traditions, the cookbook contained Jewish and American recipes, and recipes that were amalgams of these traditions. In this way the cookbook reflected some of the foods and recipes that Jews brought with them, foods they encountered for the first time, and variants from other parts of Europe, all presented within an up-to-date domestic science framework. Also, given the anecdotal evidence that poor cooking was responsible for much marital discord, the readers of the day probably took the sub-title quite seriously.
The second edition appeared in 1903, and sold 1,500 copies. To date the book has gone through more than 40 editions and has sold more than two million copies, which makes it the most profitable charity cookbook ever. Kander served as cookbook editor from 1914 until her death, revising each edition and adding new recipes. The skeptical trustees – who once joked that they would gladly share in any profits should the ladies publish a cookbook without their financial support – would see cookbook royalties provide more than a quarter of the sum paid for a brand new building in 191l; the Settlement values of service and education would endure, even as the needs of Milwaukee Jews changed. Immigration tapered off in the 1920s, and by 1931 the group had changed location again, to a building five times larger; now called the Jewish Community Center, it offered an expansive program of vocational, cultural and communal activities, as well as sports and social events. The cookbook royalties, again, covered a large portion of the building’s cost.
- How to feed a family
- How to set a table
- Directions for serving with a maid, no maid, in the Russian style, platter service, buffet style, etc.
- Cooking for invalids (Pre-politically correct days)
- Menus and food combinations
- Cooking for camping and how to build a campfire
Some of my favorite, but not heart-healthy, recipes are the following:
- Berliner Pfann Kuchen (Filled Dougnuts)
- Chocolate Icebox Cake made with Lady Fingers, lots of butter, eggs, and cream
- Potato Cakes made with cold mashed potatoes
- Chicken Liver Timbale
- Cheese Sticks
FInding these recipes takes me back to a time when I was an underweight kid and my mother insisted that my father make something to fatten me up. He tried, I ate massive quantities of doughnuts, cheese sticks, and cake, but I never gained any weight.
Now, well, that’s a different story. I never make any of these recipes, but maybe when I start picking wild raspberries I’ll get a hankering for Berliner Pfann Kuchen, make a dozen, and take my cue on how to serve them.