Introducing Nelle’s Cornucopia of Domestic Wisdom

A century ago, my great-grandmother was sixteen and attending Guthrie Center High School. At the time, Home Economics (or Domestic Science as it was called) would have been a very important class to young ladies. I am sure there were some exceptions, but at that time most of the gals were probably preparing for their eventual role as a keeper of the home. A role my grandmother took very seriously – as she kept her class text books and her handwritten class notes.

Guthrie Center High School – Domestic Science about 1916. Nelle is sitting in the front row, second from the right. These ladies look like they are ready for tea, or ready to serve you something fancy on a silver tray, or perhaps dust your tchotchkes.

Grandma Great (that’s what we called her) also kept a couple of notebooks full of recipes. Most recipes are written on the pages of the notebook in fountain pen, others on the backs of scrap paper and calendars and tucked into her notebooks and books. There are also newspaper clippings and recipes she saved from can labels and food boxes.

I’m sure she didn’t need a book or recipe to follow for most of her cooking. I think the recipes written in the notebooks would be those shared by friends or that she heard over the radio.  Recipes she thought she would try at some point. Some might have been keepers – and others not so much.

The irony  about this recipe collection?  Nelle didn’t like to cook.

I thought about taking on a project – going through her recipes and trying out one per week – or something like that. But looking through her notebooks, I noticed a couple of themes:

  • Dessert
  • Let’s see how many items we can suspend in Jell-O at one time
  • 1,001 uses for canned pineapple

And you know what?  I’m not a fan of cooking either.

Instead of cooking my way through her books, I thought I would try to post something bi-weekly. Maybe I would tackle a recipe, or just share an interesting one that I wasn’t willing to tackle? Maybe I could dig up a century old lesson from her text book? Yes, I can share her trove and keep me and my family happy at that same time……..

I introduce Nelle’s Cornucopia of Domestic Wisdom.

Let’s review the class materials ………

Nelle’s Cornucopia

  • One full-sized black binder filled with class notes, menu plans and notes on good housekeeping.
  • One notebook. Coverless.  Stained.  Filled with handwritten recipes – probably her first personal collection.
  • One medium black binder.  Embossed “Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts – Science With Practice”.  Packed with more hand-written recipes probably collected in the 60’s and 70’s.  There are a few local names mentioned in this one (Lula Chaloupka’s Salad for example).  I look forward to sharing these recipes.
  • A stack of advertising inserts, newspaper clippings and recipes written on pages from old calendars.
  • Two books – “Bailey’s Domestic Science Principles and Application” and the “Nyal Cook Book”

A Closer Look at The Text Books

Below:  The class text book “Domestic Science Principles and Application” by Pearl L. Bailey.  Copyright 1914 by Webb Publishing Company.  This was the book she and the other lovely ladies studied in class.

Bailey’s Domestic Science – Cover

Bailey’s Domestic Science – Interior

Up next is the Nyal Cookbook.  It is copyright 1916 by The Boston Cooking-School Magazine Co.  I don’t know if they used this book in class, or maybe it was given to her as a gift – perhaps at her marriage in 1918.  Regardless, she would have referenced this in her early years.  It’s lovingly held together by some duct tape – which could be my mother’s doing.

Nyal Cook Book – Cover

Nyal Cook Book

From the Nyal book’s introduction:

“The Nyal Cook Book contains tested, practical recipes prepared by one of America’s foremost cooking authorities.  This book has been especially prepared for Nyal Quality druggists.  It is a standard work which will be appreciated by the busy housewife because it suggests a wide selection of nutritious, palatable dishes which add variety and zest to the daily menu.”

Guthrie Center had at least two “druggists and jewelers” at this time.  According to advertisements, It was C.H. Nelson that was known as “The Nyal Man” in the area, and this book was probably purchased from his store.

Stay tuned – we still have many fascinating domestic-y things to explore with Nelle.

One Comment:

  1. Love this post. I’d like to have Lula Chaloupka’s Salad recipe in my collection, just for her fun name. Grandma Wilson had a neighbor on North 4th Street who had a name that rolled around in my mouth when I was little: Lena Rumelhart. Loved that name.

Leave a Reply