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Palabras Pintorescas: Cookbooks and recipes bring delightful memories

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By Editha Bartley

My friends can come up with some strange things at times. I was just given a sour dough starter. It rests in a gallon Ziplock bag, must be mushed around every morning and more sugar, milk and flour added so it can multiply. This wonderful old yeast like dough continues to bubble and form gas as it works on my kitchen counter. One day soon some of it will become bread, hopefully.

I used to keep a starter going, often for months on end, when this dude ranch was in full swing and I have a well-worn sourdough cookbook somewhere in my wall of cookbooks resting on solid shelves. These cookbooks are in no order, so I know this search will take a while, an event that I always enjoy. Six very special cookbooks jumped out at me. They have all been published by our own Las Vegas residents and cooks. The oldest one I have is “What’s Cookin’ in Las Vegas, N.M.,” published by the Women’s Club of Las Vegas. It was published in 1948 and I recognize many names of ladies I knew. The “Las Vegas, New Mexico Recipe Roundup,” compiled by the Immanuel Lutheran Ladies Aid was published in 1954.

The Las Vegas Woman’s Club published another cookbook in 1962, titled “Favorite Recipes.” “The Best Cooking in Las Vegas” was published in 1974 by the Catholic Ladies Altar Society, Immaculate Conception Church in Las Vegas. “Favorite Personal Recipes,” published by St. Anthony’s Hospital Auxiliary had to be published in the 1960’s, before businesses had zip codes. Also in my collection is “Las Vegas Opera Guild Cookbook” published by the Las Vegas Opera Guild in 1971.

I knew many of the contributers / cooks who submitted these fun and very good recipes. Some of us are still around today and I was surprised to find one of my recipes in the St. Anthony’s cookbook. The recipe that made my day, as they say comes from the 1948 Women’s Club book, “What’s Cookin’ in Las Vegas.” Mrs. F.B. Eteson lister her recipe for fish pie. Her husband, Frank Eteson (the cookbook has misspelled Eteson) was our Episcopal minister here for years. The Etesons immigrated from England, and yes they were my godparents.

Way back in the 1940s we had major winter blizzards, which often made the road to Valmora, my home, impassable. When this happened I had to stay with the Etesons in their very British home and eat Mrs. Eteson’s basis, bland and different dinners. Her fish pie, which she considered a delicacy consisted of boiled white fish, suet, mashed potatoes, eggs and standard dairy milk, all combined and baked until “it was set” I didn’t like it then and I don’t think I will ever add it to my “must make” recipe collection!
Yet another cookbook from Las Vegas is “To Serve with Love,” published by the Christian Women’s Fellowship from First Christian Church in 1989. There are so many good recipes in all of these cookbooks and it is interesting to note how both cooking and menus have changed in the last 60 years. I hope our library has a complete collection of these local cookbooks, because not only are the recipes fun to read, they paint an interesting picture of the times and organization in the era they were written and published.

Meanwhile, the sourdough starter merrily bubbled along and in a day or two it will be ready to incorporate into a recipe.

Sourdough is tough stuff and many a wagon on the Santa Fe Trail had the starting bouncing along in a crock carefully protected in it. Ah, yes – everything old is new once again!

Editha Bartley  lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.