After the feasting and expenses from the holidays, once the leftovers are all gone, soup is always a great frugal way to begin new year menus.
For anyone who has ever flipped through old cookbooks from the 1940s or earlier, soup recipes are always highlighted as the best way to stretch the household budget, a lesson that is important to pass along to future generations.
I received a wonderful letter from reader Musetta Gatlin Yeager of Griffith talking about her favorite vintage cookbooks passed on to her from her own grandmother. She highlighted that one of the cherished books was produced by one of the Chicago newspapers, a popular trend of compiling recipes long before The Times began compiling my From the Farm columns into hardcover cookbooks starting in 2004.
"Dear Philip: I read your columns every day in the newspaper. I am NOT on the Internet. I have several cookbooks which belonged to my grandmother. The first one is 'The Chicago Daily News Cookbook" printed in 1930. Another interesting cookbook is one that is three-inches thick called "The People's Home Library" published in 1919 and divided into three sections. The first part is titled 'The People's Home Medical Book,' while the second is 'The People's Home Recipe Book' and the third is 'The People's Home Stock Book,' with the latter dedicated to how to care for animals at the homestead. My grandmother was a Christenson, yes, a sister of Warner Christenson. So Milford and his wife Margaret are my second cousins. I hope this is of interest to you. Respectfully, Musetta Gatlin Yeager."
Thank you for reading my columns and especially for writing your letter which is very much of interest. The oldest cookbook that I keep at my desk is a very worn copy of "The Great 20th Century Cookbook - Three Meals a Day" published in 1902 by The Educational Company in Chicago and written by Maude C Cooke, who writes: "The responsibility of the cook, who sees in her work not only food for the body, but inspiration for the mind, becomes weighty and far-reaching in its possibilities." This motto from the 110-year-old book still holds true today.
This book was one that was in danger of being discarded from our newspaper's internal library during a cleaning spree before I rescued it. Like your book from 1991, it too is divided into three sections labeled as "Toilet," "Health" and "Housekeeping." The inside cover page describes it as "A Choice Collection of Valuable and Reliable Recipes in all Classes of Cookery and a Comprehensive Cyclopedia of information for the Home including Toilet, Health, and Housekeeping Departments, Cooking Recipes, Menus, Table Etiquette, and A Thousand Facts Worth Knowing."
And thank you for mentioning your reference and family connection to Milford Christenson, who is so often mentioned in our Times stories, usually for his kind philanthropic deeds. Milford, 90, president of Highland–based Christenson Chevrolet, was a 2012 inductee of the BusINess Hall of Fame named by our Times Media Company.
"I learned to share at an early age," he said during an interview with our BusINess magazine.
"I learned to be generous by having a proper childhood. No one had very much, but no one was on relief because we helped one another and that just carried on."
As a child growing up during the Great Depression, Christenson and his brothers, Roy and Dale, worked at their father Warner's hardware and furniture stores, construction business and coal–delivery business. After completing high school, Milford Christenson went to Indiana University.
"When I went to college, my mother told me not to get a job because it was the time to study," he said. "I got by on $500 my first year. I spent 70 cents a day for food, $2.50 a week for my room, and 5 cents for Coke or a Pepsi every other week. I never bought a shirt with IU on it because it cost too much. I lived very tight. I don't need a lot of money to live on. That allows me to share."
On the subject of sharing, today's frugal soup recipe is from reader Stan Stefanski of Highland, owner of Big Frank's Sausage Company in East Chicago.
Big Frank's Sausage Company's Polish Bean Soup
3 (16-ounce) cans pork & beans
3 potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and diced
1 pound smoked kielbasa (can also use pre-cooked fresh kielbasa)
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons marjoram
1 teaspoon caraway seed
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon or Vegeta All-Purpose Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 small onion, chopped (optional)
Black pepper, to taste
1-1/2 to 2 cups water (can add more, if desired)
DIRECTIONS: Mix all ingredients in a large pot; cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour or less, making certain potatoes are soft and tender. Makes approximately 10 servings.