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Culinary arts have boomed in popularity over the last several years.  Whether watching the latest cooking program on television; reading popular fiction such as Diane Mott Davidson’s culinary mysteries; browsing through cookbooks; or looking for recipes online, people enjoy food and cooking. A look at the 641.5 section in the Local History Room at the Library indicates that the popularity of cooking and recipe collecting is not new.  The collection includes more than 50 cookbooks created by local groups.

The oldest local cookbook in this collection is “Brevard Cook Book” edited by The Ladies of Brevard Baptist Church.  The book is undated, however advertisements within it indicate it was published between 1924 and 1931. Recipes in this early cookbook include breads, cakes, candies, desserts, egg & cheese dishes, fritters, meats, pickled & preserved foods, pies & custards, puddings, salads, sandwiches, soups, and vegetables.  The Pork Cake and Butterfly Salad recipes here are from “Brevard Cook Book.”

Pork Cake—Two pounds fat pork, chopped fine; one pound raisins, chopped fine; one and one-half pounds English walnuts, chopped fine; seven cups flour; one pint black coffee; four cups brown sugar; one spoon cinnamon; one spoon allspice; one spoon soda.  Mix pork, raisins, nuts, then add coffee; mix thoroughly.  Stir in flour to which the spice and soda has been added.  Bake in moderate oven four hours.  Mrs. S. F. Allison.

Butterfly Salad—Split banana lengthwise and cut in half.  Place on a crisp lettuce leaf; on each side, place a half ring of sliced pineapple, to form the butterfly wings.  Garnish with fruits or cherries.  Mrs. Leonard Simpson.

There are currently numerous cookbooks from churches throughout the county in the Local History Room.   The most from one congregation is three from Brevard-Davidson River Presbyterian Church, published in 1947, 1950, and 2002.   There are two from First United Methodist and one from Rosman United Methodist.  There are cookbooks from the Wesleyan Methodist Church, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Sacred Heart Catholic Church and from eleven different Baptist churches in Transylvania County.

Wesleyan Methodist Church published,
“What’s Cookin’ in Brevard, North Carolina” in 1948.

Churches weren’t the only ones to produce cookbooks. Many non-profit organizations have printed and sold copies of their collected culinary treasures as fundraisers, and the Local History Room collection proves this. The Balsam Grove Community Club, Land of Waterfalls Senior Games, and the Rosman Rescue Squad Ladies Auxiliary are just a few of those organizations whose cookbooks are in the collection.

Household tips and recipes for cleaning products, first aid, and personnel products are also included in many of these books. In 1951 Calvary Baptist Church published “Your Household Guide” which goes beyond baking, cooking and canning to include tips for gardening, arranging flowers, sewing, painting, and doing laundry.  In addition it lists postal rates, state capitals, U.S. Presidents, holidays and much more.

Brevard-Davidson River Presbyterian Church’s 1950 cookbook

The tradition of community cooking continues with current programming at the Transylvania County Library. A new Cookbook Club has just begun and will meet monthly. Participants can sign up in advance to pick out a recipe from a different staff-selected cookbook each month, and then meet to discuss the book & recipes and try out what each participant has brought to the potluck-style event. The April cookbook will be The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer. For more event details or to register, contact Community Engagement Librarian Kelly McBride at [email protected]

Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. This article is adapted from an April 2016 article written by former Local History Librarian Marcy Thompson. Sources available upon request. For more information, comments, or suggestions, contact NC Room staff at [email protected] or 828-884-1820.

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212 S Gaston St, Brevard, NC 28712