Everything Old is New Again: A 1947 Cookbook Gets a New Edition

By on May 29, 2012

At Home on the Range, McSweeney's Books

You cannot even imagine how many cookbooks have passed across my desk in the 40 years since I published my first – of 24 cookbooks.  Sometimes,  I believe that I have seen everything.

But once in awhile, I’m surprised.  Like the new edition of 
At Home on the Range,
 by Margaret Yardley Potter, McSweeney’s Books. From the original which was published in 1947.

This book would no doubt have lingered on the bookshelves of the great granddaughter of the redoubtable Ms. Pottter, except we all know her from Eat Pray Love, Ms. Elizabeth Gilbert.

Proving once again that genes do tell.  Millions of readers of Ms. Gilbert attest to her writing skills,  but if you’d like to know where that talent came from,  I advise you to rush to the nearest bookstore, or to Amazon and order her great grandmother’s book, At Home…

Ms. Potter was a cooking columnist for theWilmington Star, and was given lots of space to write,  to reveal herself, and to pass along tips and recipes from her own cooking ventures.

No doubt,  no self respecting critic of the day even turned to the food section of that or any other newspaper,  coming as it did before Julia or Jim Beard.  But  if you’d like an up close and personal look at one woman’s life,  you don’t have to read her great granddaughter  Eat – Pray…  You can go to the font.  Read great grandmother’s book.  You will be rewarded.

I dipped into my favorite topic first, desserts and was amply rewarded.  Like others of her era,  Ms. Potter didn’t bother with setting out a recipe as if it were a chemical formula in the trademark office,  she just wrote it out, in paragraphs, the way a person would do if you were talking over the back fence.

And in so doing,  she tells you much you didn’t even know you wanted to know until you read it here.  And Ms. Potter makes no claims on originality for recipes, but refers back (how far back is this now???) to Mrs. Rorer’s Philadelphia Cookbook where you will learn valuable slogans like this:

“the oven can wait for the cake, never the cake for the oven.” Now Mrs. Rorer, and Mrs. Potter both were cooking on coal or wood fired ovens, and used their hands for a thermostat, but never doubt for a moment that they were expert bakers.

The chapter has sponge cakes, cookies, icings and a fabulous assortment of sweets that I want to try.  As Ms. Potter says at the end of the chapter, “Beauty contestants may have their silver cups, movie picture stars their glamour and Oscars – Mrs. Rorer, Grandmother and I are content with more lasting fame.”

Or put another way, as the sign in my own mother’s kitchen read, “Beauty don’t last, good cooking does.”

Order this book today:  At Home on the Range, by Margaret Yardley Potter, McSweeney’s Books


About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”

One Comment

  1. Cathy

    May 30, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Shades of Clementine Paddleford! Her 1960 book, How America Eats, also has a nicely conversational tone as she tells stories about eating and cooking in all parts of America. Great read. Meanwhile will have to find a copy of this one. Thanks for flagging!