The Way To a Man’s Heart (circa 1901)

August 19, 2016

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Although it’s almost forgotten now, this was one of the best selling cookbooks of the 20th century. It had some pretty notable fans: James Beard among them, who supposedly once said, “If I consult a cookbook at all, it is likely to be by one of these sensible flat-heeled authors like the famous Mrs. Kander.”

The Settlement House, a Milwaukee community center founded in the early 20th century was created to help newly-immigrated Russian Jewish women acclimatize to American norms of domesticity.  There were showers, sewing lessons, deportment lessons, and even cooking classes – most taught by an upper-middle-class German Jew, Lizzie Black Kander. Faced with the task of sustaining operations, Kander came up with the notion of  a simple cookbook to sell to the larger Milwaukee community. That “simple” cookbook -the entire first edition of 1000 copies cost 18 dollars  to print in 1901- went on to see over 20 editions.

Notably absent from the first edition? Jewish foods of any variety. Kander’s goal, after all, was to Americanize poor immigrants; the German Jews who arrived first looked down on the Russian Jews, and did not want to be embarrassed by them. (They actually feared that they’d set off a wave of antisemitism.) The early editions contained no Kosher recipes, although they did include recipes for Christmas and Easter feasts. Over time, the preservation of Jewish cultural heritage became an equal goal: in my edition, from 1938, I found these curious matzo recipes.

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9 Comments

  • Amy Wohl says:

    I actually have this cookbook, which I got from my dad.. He swore by it. I think the author was Mrs. Martin Kander, as I recall him saying… I will check the publishing date on it, out of curiosity. He was of Jewish heritage from Long Island. My grandfather, I believe, was of Hungarian descent, but our name is German, Wohl. I appreciate you featuring it in your blog! I will go home and give it a look. I, myself, have not yet cooked out of it. Best, Amy Wohl Foster

  • Penny Schwartz says:

    My parents, Jewish and living on Long Island, used this cookbook and gave me a 1965 edition when I got married in 1967. I still have it and sometimes consult the inside front cover for conversions of pints to cups!

  • I have my grandmother, Vivian Sosna Gottlieb’s copy and it’s the most precious book in my collection. She used it as a young woman married in 1952, who cooked for her husband and four children. She says she would wake up every day and while lying in bed, the first thought she had was always, “What am I going to make for dinner today.” It falls open to the kreplach recipe page, stained with grease and flour.

  • Jeanie says:

    Ruth- The only cookbook I recall my mother having was this one. After she died I searched for it, finally finding it in a somewhat hidden drawer in her kitchen table, along with “Love and Knishes,” and I treasure it, as she has her hand-written notes inside it, and it is well-worn.
    I am not sure if the results of her cooking, using this book as her guide, were the way to my dad’s heart though, as you may remember that my mom was not the best cook on the planet! However, I did have a few favorites, matzoh brie being one of them. Fortunately, she did have plenty of other attributes to win my dad’s heart!

  • annie says:

    Such a nice memory .. my Aunt from Fargo ND gave a copy to me when I got married in 1974 .. it was a staple of her family .. Love your blog! Annie

  • Joy Kramer says:

    I enjoyed reading about this cookbook and thought, that cover is so familiar, so I went through my books and have a 1926 copy (before my time) and a 1976 copy. Guess I have the whole spread pretty well covered. The old one is falling apart and I must have bought it as there is a price of $1.00 inside the cover. It is one of those old cookbooks that gives you warm fuzzies when you open it up. Thanks for the history.

  • Jane Gagle-Bennett says:

    My husband’s grandmother gave me a copy – married in ’68, still have the cookbook, don’t have the husband.

    I used it and Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cookbook series to learn to cook as my mother was very protective of “her” kitchen, and when I got married, I knew NOTHING about cooking. My mother-in-law was a great cook, had my first taco and first falafel and first twice cooked pork from her kitchen. She had a copy of the Settlement Cookbook also – she got her copy at the beginning of WWII and used the recipe for making soap that was in the cookbook as well as the food recipes.

  • Helen Frazer says:

    I can echo the other comments. My Mom gave me the 1965 edition when I got married and I inherited her 1951 edition with her notes and written recipes from friends stuffed inside. It is one of my most precious memories of Mom who was born in Milwaukee and grew up learning these recipes.

  • Peggy Heyman says:

    I grew up watching my mother use this cookbook! When I married in 1963, it was one of the first things I requested. My copy is well worn, though I rarely use it now. My favorite recipe in those early days was the Lemon Chiffon Pie with a graham cracker crust. that always received raves from friends and family. I should probably make it again!

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