Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Monticello Hostess - A Recipe and a Look at Cookbooks from the 1950s

I'm going to guess that none of you have heard of Monticello (pronounce the c like an s), Mississippi.  There really isn't a reason to have heard of it.  It's a tiny town - population as of 2010 was 1,571 in the southern part of the state, 1 county away from the Louisiana state line and on the banks of the Pearl River.
The sign outside the old depot in Monticello, MS

In 1951 the Women's Club in Monticello published a cookbook called The Monticello Hostess.  It's one of those cookbooks that I worry are dying out.  The kind where everyone in the group contributes recipes that used to be everywhere but I don't see as often as I used too.

When the Tornado and I were at my grandparents' this past weekend I discovered my Grandmother's much loved copy of The Monticello Hostess.  In 1954 my Grandfather, a full time National Guardsman, was put over the station there.  In some ways I think it was a fairly idyllic time for them. His deployment to Korea was behind them, they had two young children and after a few years of living hundreds of miles away from their families they were now within 100 miles of almost everyone.  My grandfather, a pilot, was spending a lot of time flying to different Guard stations and my Grandmother was getting involved in all the organizations the little town had to offer which included The Women's Club which is why 60 + years later her copy is sitting open on my desk.

We had a good time giggling over some of the recipes.  The enthusiastic use of gelatin is somewhat terrifying.  Who knew that tuna and gelatin belonged in the same dish (and we're not going to talk about the Molded Salmon Salad)?  And just what is a yeast cake that's mentioned in a number of bread recipes?  How does that translate into what I can buy at the store now?  And what was even more interesting was the stories behind the names listed just below the the recipes.  I learned that all the Rhymes girls were good cooks and that Lynda Rhymes Clay had boys who were about the same age as my uncles which then led to a rather hair raising story involving half a dozen barefoot little boys, a rifle (hoping it was at least a BB gun) and a rather irritated snake.  That any recipe by Mrs. Bufkin is worth trying though other than this book she never would share her recipes.  That any recipe that came from Anita (whose last name I'm not mentioning!) was bound to be inedible and whole hosts of other stories about the characters who inhabited this little town.

One thing I found and really enjoyed about this book is that as long as I avoid anything involving gelatin the recipes really aren't particularly dated.  They're fairly simple, everything is from scratch and while some have a bit more fat than we tend to use today I have to wonder if it isn't all better for you than the cookbooks that might have half the fat but rely on can of whatever soup or other pre-made ingredients.

Today I'm sharing a recipe for Hot Potato Salad which was made by a Mrs. Sara Izard Hough who my Grandmother remembers nothing about.

Hot Potato Salad

6 cups cooked sliced potatoes
1/2 cup diced cooked bacon
6 tablespoons chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon flour
3/4 teaspoon mustard
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 tablespoons vinegar
6 tablespoons boiling water
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Wash potatoes and steam until tender - about 30 minutes.  Peel and slice.  Fry bacon until slightly browned, and then add onion and brown.  Blend salt sugar, flour, mustard, and pepper and add to the onion and bacon.  Add the vinegar and boiling water and cook until smooth and thickened.  Add the potatoes and heat through until moisture has been partly absorbed.  Add parsley and serve hot.

My Results: I think I will be trying other recipes from Mrs. Hough as this was a very good classic Hot Potato salad.  It was just enough bacon and onion.  It was a little low on tang so I think I might change the proportion of vinegar to water - maybe 8 tablespoons vinegar to 4 tablespoons water and maybe add a little dijon mustard to up the mustard-y factor.  With those changes I can see this being my go-to potato salad!

I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads


  1. Ha! According to one of my grandmothers, gelatin was so popular because you had to have reliable refrigeration to make it work. So in the 30s, especially, making gelatin dishes was a sign of class and money. Too funny.

    I think you could still by yeast in cake form well into the 70s. I haven't looked for it in years, so I can't say what happened to it. One cake = 1 package/envelope of today's yeast.

    I too LOVE these kinds of books. My mother marked hers up so I know exactly which recipes and contributors to trust. I guess these are lost to time now.

  2. Ok I got curious. You can still buy it at least in some areas:

  3. Love cookbooks like this -- so much social and regional history included. And what fun to hear about those different women. I cringed at the thought of tuna and gelatin but the hot potato salad does sound good!

  4. I think some of those jellied recipes are related to classics that used unflavored gelatin, but they get strange when you use very sweet Jello as the base. French cuisine often puts tuna or salmon or eggs or ham in _aspic_ (which is unsweetened gelatin) without any sweet element in the dish. But I'm sure the ones in your book (fascinating and wonderful as it obviously is) are a bit of a problem!

    best... mae at

  5. In part German heritage and this is just like what I remember as being called German Potato Salad. Unlike the mayo style, it is served warm and features a vinegar tangy base and bacon ☺ Haven't had it in years!
    By the way, I just moved from an area in rural upstate MY where the closest town with shipping was Monticello, pronounced the same way. Just a trivia tidbit, lol...

    1. Ugh, autocorrect! It's I'm of German heritage, and rural NY...I was rushing, my bad!

  6. I never had bacon and potato salad, that sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe. I doubt my little kids will ever use cookbooks. Already, Belle is more fond of then she is enthusiastic about the large cookbook collection I own. (not that i use it either) I might try this recipe though, it sounds so good.

  7. I love cookbooks like this. I have one that's fairly new that the seniors home/rehabilitation facility that my mister's grandma was in did a book like this with all the old women (and younger ones) adding in advice. I worry about these kind dying out as well. Theres actually a really well known community cookbook that was published in the 1880s? I can't remember but was for charity I believe and they used write in submissions from women all over Ontario and it's still being printed! I have a newer copy but, when I was going through my Nan's cookbooks I found a copy she had from the 50s of the same book.

  8. That's a classic cookbook, I love the old regional ones like this. We have a Monticello here just east of Tallahassee and they also pronounce it with a S. We ride there sometimes for the locally owned bakery and fresh honey. Great recipe you shared here.

  9. How fun to learn how they lived back then and hear fun stories.

  10. I love a hot potato salad, but tuna and gelatin- not so much.

  11. Love the sound of this hot salad. Have a great week. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

  12. I know exactly the kind of cookbook you're talking about! I have a few, too, from my dad and stepmother's church (which is the same one my dad's family has attended since he was a little boy. It's fun to see recipes from my grandma and my aunts in there.

    I love the stories your grandma told, and hearing about her and your grandpa's lives when they lived there. What a treasure to still have your grandparents alive to tell those stories!

    I also know what you mean about the older recipes. The very idea of tuna and gelatin makes me shudder. Cuisine does seem to go through fads and cycles, doesn't it? But there are also some good recipes in older cookbooks, especially for baking.

  13. I love community cookbooks like this! My mother has been weeding out her house and trying to find people to take things. She asked me if there were any cookbooks I wanted and I said only the local church and Grange cookbooks. She said my sister said the same thing, so we would have to fight it out. Ha ha. I am old and I don't even remember yeast cakes. These recipes are hardcore!

  14. What fun! I love those vintage cookbooks so much, they are so entertaining to read through. Definitely there is an overabundance of gelatin and aspic dishes and some are very scary! ;-)

  15. I remember my mom using a lot of gelatin, too. Some of the people in my hometown probably still use it, as I think a potluck I attended a few years ago served up a lot of dishes with that

  16. I love those old cookbooks from women in churches and other groups. They always have such good recipes. I feel the same way about gelatin that you do. I passed the Hot Potato Salad recipe on the a friend who loves hot potato salad, and asked it I could try it when she makes it. Wonderful post and thanks for sharing the recipe.

  17. I enjoy old cookbooks-I think it is interesting to look at them and see how the recipes have evolved over time.

  18. I love book that have multiple contributors. I have one my daughter's class did in 3rd grade.