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Vintage Cookbooks: Vermont village cookbook preserves a slice of history

Thursday, November 04, 1999

By Alice Demetrius Stock, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Besides giving the Pilgrims credit for inventing Thanksgiving, America's oldest holiday, we should also thank the rest of New England for preserving the tradition until it became an official celebration.

In ensuing years, while other state governors proclaimed days of special thanksgiving on occasion, the people of New England's villages and towns never forgot those brave souls who, in 1621, founded the Plymouth Colony, later the state of Massachusetts. For more than 200 years, New Eng-landers continued commemorating the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving Day -- an annual observance thanking God not for any one specific thing, but for a variety of blessings -- with a special day of prayer ending with a feast.

It wasn't until 1863, however, when President Lincoln proclaimed a nationwide thanksgiving "in the New England tradition for general causes," for the last Thursday of November, that the holiday became a national event.

With just such thoughts of gratitude toward New Englanders in my heart and Thanksgiving Day baking on my mind, I turned to "The Vermont Village Cook Book," in its third printing in 1963.

Already well-worn, pencil-marked and grease-splattered long before I acquired it, the 123-page collection of favorite small-town recipes was created to benefit the Landgrove, Vt., Community Fund.

A charming addition to this fundraiser is a hand-drawn map indicating the layout of Landgrove, a village of 5,586 acres on the eastern slopes of the Green Mountains; (in 1963) one church, one school, one farm, 21 dogs and 17.22 miles of road of which less than a mile was paved.

Each of the 66 contributors' homes is also sketched beside his or her recipe, suggesting an immediate intimacy with the place and its people.

The recipes are plain and homey, but present an interesting variety. Besides the usual casseroles and stews, chocolate cakes and molasses cookies, for example, there are ethnic dishes: akroshka (a Russian cold soup), crème marquise (a French pudding), Faar I Kaal (Norwegian cabbage and lamb), Swedish torte and English trifle.

Drinks include a frightening concoction called Pumpkin Liquor (brown sugar in a pumpkin buried until spring), Mulled Wine, Ginger Beer, Home Brew and Daisey's Cure for Arthritis (fruit juice and Epsom salts!).

The village, incorporated in 1780, had been around long enough, apparently, to have its own meatball recipe that would make a nice addition to a Thanksgiving buffet.

Landgrove Meatballs: Soak a cup of bread crumbs in a little hot water. Add 2 slightly beaten eggs, salt and pepper to taste, 1/2 teaspoon mace, 1 pound of ground beef and 1/2-pound each, ground pork and veal. Add "the secret ingredient" -- 1 cup Bordelaise sauce. The 1-inch diameter meatballs are browned in oil, cooled an hour, then baked at 350 degrees, in a covered casserole for an hour, in a gravy made of 2 cups water, 1/2 cup red wine, 2 beef bouillon cubes and 2 tablespoons flour. Just before serving, stir in a pint of sour cream. (Although no directions are given in the book for the red wine and shallot Bordelaise sauce, most general cookbooks will have it.)

If you find yourself with a leftover can of cranberry sauce after Thanksgiving, try this rather oddly-named recipe contributed by the Landgrove Library. They suggested it was "great hot with ice cream and chewy cold." We liked it hot or cold, doused with half and half.

Bill's Cranberry Goozle

1 cup uncooked quick oatmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 1-pound can whole cranberry sauce

Mix oatmeal, flour and sugar together. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until mixture is crumbly and butter chunks are no longer recognizable.

Pat half the mixture into a buttered 8-by-8-inch pan. Spread the cranberries evenly over the bottom layer. Cover the cranberries with the rest of the mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees, about 45 minutes or until the edges turn brown.

"The Vermont Village Cookbook," 1963.

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