This is my little collection of Church-lady cookbooks. I usually buy them at library book sales. I guess they used to be a popular fundraiser for church and other ladies' groups (like the Alaska Crippled Children's Association, beneficiaries of Cooking from Alaska's Kitchens, in which bear chunks are paired with cream of mushroom soup for a new kind of American taste sensation).
Last night we were having a good guffaw over some of the recipes while HWWLLB baked up an "Impossible Pie" from What's Cookin' at Annunciation. I have no idea where Annunciation is located, but I'm sure this book dates to the 1960's and was published in the South, because it contains many fine southern turns of phrase such as "I reckon" and "if you fancy...". The ladies who contributed these recipes clearly belonged to two distinct generations; the older church ladies who apparently have no first names of their own, such as "Mrs. George Ketchum," and the younger, more liberated married ladies who use their own first names, such as "Maureen Burket."
So the Impossible Pie... the way it works is, you take a bunch of pie ingredients (flour, sugar, milk, eggs, coconut, etc), throw them in the blender and mix them all up. Then you pour it all into a pie pan and bake. Three levels basically fall out, with floury stuff on the bottom, eggy stuff in the middle and coconut on top - a coconut custard pie! (more or less). We had it for breakfast this morning - it couldn't touch my mother's coconut custard pie, but it wasn't bad.
My most favorite recipe comes from Cooking with Christians in Brevard, NC. Brevard is where HWWLLB's parents live, and this book contains a recipe from my childhood that I just can't wait to make for the cookout. Here it is:
Strawberry Salad (Barbara Johnson)
2 2/3 cup broken pretzels (sticks) mush up
3 Tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup margarine
Cream sugar and margarine together. Spread pretzels with layer in 9 x 13 pan and with sugar on top. Cover and bake 350 degrees five minutes and stir and bake five minutes more. Cool.
8 oz. soft cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 9oz. Cool Whip
Cream sugar and cream cheese together. Fold in Cool Whip, spread over first layer.
1 1/2 Cup boiling water
6 oz. strawberry jello
2 10oz. frozen strawberries
Mix jello and boiling water, chill partially; fold and chill partially again. Spread over second layer and refrigerate.
(I do believe that we were supposed to include those frozen strawberries in layer three - Ed.).
Imagine this three-layer Jello mold in the shape of a big red bundt cake, with salty, crunchy pretzels on the bottom, sweet cheese in the middle and sickeningly sweet strawberry jello on top. Heavenly! My Aunt Cindy used to make this for every family gathering, and I always took an extra-big slice. I will definitely be making this for the fantasy cookout - I hope you all can come!
I'll leave you with this bit of wisdom from Cooking with Christians:
"Joy is love making its own sunshine, even in times of gloom."