The Village of Cooksville was a busy village of cooks, appropriately enough. It produced a number of cookbooks over the past 160 years, including one with a recipe for a “cancer ointment.”
|Hand-written cancer ointment recipe|
It may not have been a true “cure” for cancer, but one old, handwritten Cooksville recipe book contains a “receipt for making cancer ointment,” as well as other recipes for concocting medicines and some for the more usual cakes, cookies and sausages.
This old, small, slender (18 pages) cook book does not have a title and is not identified as to ownership or writer. It appears to have been written in the early or mid-19th century by an unknown hand in ink with a neat, old-fashioned script. (An occasional old-fashioned “f” letter is used instead of an “s-shape” for the first “s” when a double “ss” is required, as in “fs,” which indicates a late-18th century- or early 19th century penmanship-schooled writer.)
“The Old Cooksville Recipe Book” (its new name now) contains about fourteen medicinal recipes and a similar number of cake, pudding, gingerbread, sausage, syrup, current wine and cordial “receipts.” In addition to the “cancer ointment receipt,” the old book contains formulas to treat such illnesses as dropsy, dysentery, coughs, colds, itches, piles and tape worms. Their ingredients include various roots, leaves, berries, flowers and barks, as well as the occasional sulfur, turpentine and pumpkin seeds.
The old dessert recipes include Delicate cake, Pound cake, Mrs. Pecks Cake (perhaps this is from Rosaline Peck, Madison’s first innkeeper in the late 1830s), Bakers gingerbread, Tea cake, Temperance Cake, Cider cake, Caroline cake, and a couple of nut cakes, ginger nuts, as well as a Rice Plumb (sic) Pudding. Some measurements are in “gills” and some are in “the size of a hen’s egg.”
The cancer ointment recipe is interesting because it contains various tree barks (white pine, elder, elm, hemlock, red dogwood) as ingredients, two of which are now associated with the treatment of some cancers, namely, the pine bark and the red dogwood (ozier) species bark. The “receipt” in the booklet for making the cancer ointment is as follows:
“Take of red Ozier, Stinking Elder, Hemlock Boughs, White pine bark, two quarts each. Boil them together until the strength is gotten out, then strain it. Put to this Mutton tallow, honey, bees-wax, the marrow of a hog’s jaw and fresh Butter of each the size of a hen’s egg. Simmer it moderately over a slow fire until it becomes an ointment.”
This probably should not be tried at home. But, then again, why not?
Another early Cooksville cookbook is the “Eliza Longbourne Cookbook” begun in 1857. Longbourne (1812-1868) passed it on to Electa Johnson Savage (1845-1927), who gave it to her son Paul Savage (1876-1951); it was passed on to Chester Holway and Marvin Raney in 1947; then to Beth Armstrong who was living in the Longbourne House in 1952; and in 1973 to the new occupants of the Longbourne House, Hank Bova and Maurice Gras. The cookbook contains mostly cake and dessert recipes (including a “Pork cake”), along with a few pickle, salad and sausage recipes and two recipes for pickled smoked hams.
|Mrs. D. Lincoln’s cook book|
Another cookbook found in the village—actually a famous, published cookbook titled “Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book,” by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln, 1889, a how-to-cook book with recipes— was originally owned by Mrs. J. W. Sales, probably of Janesville, and she may have passed it on to Cora Atwood in Cooksville. The last ten blank pages of the printed book have been filled with more than 50 hand-written recipes of various kinds from friends, including one for “Scotch Woodcock” (chopped hard-boiled eggs in cream sauce on toast).
|Cooksville Mothers’ Club Cook Book|
In 1951, the Cooksville Mother’s Club compiled its own book, “Cookbook: Favorite Recipes,” with 94 pages of recipes for cakes and candies and other desserts, as well as casseroles, pickles and jellies, vegetables and salads, and “Norwegian Foods,” along with many “helpful hints” for homemakers. An opening essay, written by Mrs. Lillian Porter, is entitled, “Cooksville: Community of Culinary Culture.” One intriguing “Sandwich Hint” is an “Orange - Cream Cheese - Peanut Butter” spread containing those three ingredients.
|Cooksville Lutheran cookbook|
In 1991, Bonnie Keehn published her cookbook titled “Bonnie-Best Farm Cooking.” It is named after an old and unique apple variety discovered by her family on the Keehn farm east of Cooksville. The tree has been propagated and is sold as the “Bonnie-Best “apple tree. The cookbook contains 195 pages of family recipes, including those for Bonnie’s famous apple pie and crust. (Her hint for a flaky crust on the bottom is to brush it with melted butter, then sprinkle with corn flake crumbs, before adding the sliced apples.)
Undoubtedly, there are other personal village cookbooks, full of Cooksville family recipes (or “receipts”), sitting on back shelves or stored in attic boxes, waiting to see the light of somebody’s kitchen again. Some no doubt are used now and then.
These old cookbooks reveal the tastes of the times and the foods prepared, preserved and eaten— and the many, many desserts devoured. They are an illuminating and sometimes tempting record of the nourishing breakfasts, lunches and dinners through more than 160 years in and near the little—and always hungry and well-fed— Village of Cooksville.