October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, special features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food. Bon appetit!
Look in any used bookshop, at any rummage sale and you'll likely see a copy. Check out your mom's cookbooks and grandma's, too. There's bound to be a copy of "The Settlement Cookbook." And it likely will have recipes taped into the endpapers and notes scribbled throughout.
First published in 1901, "The Settlement Cookbook," born in Milwaukee, fast became a kitchen essential. The book was the brainchild of Lizzie Kander, who taught cooking in two Milwaukee Jewish settlement houses before starting her own, called The Settlement, on North 5th Street, at the dawn of the 20th century.
In addition to other classes and services, The Settlement -- under Kander's tutelage -- taught cooking and nutrition and introduced American foods to immigrant women. When Kander requested $18 from the Settlement's board to print recipes, the request was denied.
So, the women decided to take matters into their own hands and get the recipes printed. The result is a cookbook that went into more than 34 editions and sold more than 2 million copies. The proceeds from the first two editions allowed the Settlement to purchase a new home and future editions paid for nurseries, day care programs, scholarships and more.
The first Jewish Community Center, located on Milwaukee Street, just north of State, was paid for with profits from the book, which for many years was printed by Cramer-Krasselt, a Milwaukee-born and now Chicago-based public relations firm.
A treasure trove of papers related to the cookbook, including Kander's own copy with her handwritten notes, is part of the collections at the Milwaukee County Historical Society.
The Settlement Cookbook became a mainstay in kitchens because the recipes were easy to follow and featured simple ingredients. And even those using the more contemporary "The New Settlement Cookbook" find themselves referring to it over and over again for basic information like cooking times for assorted cuts of meat prepared via a variety of cooking methods.
While earlier editions were sometimes slim on vegetable recipes, the "New" cookbook added more of them to suit modern tastes.
Lately, however, it seems, "The Settlement Cookbook" is taking a back seat to flashier cookbooks with color illustrations, swanky sauces and celebrity chef authors.
But does that new Batali cookbook explain how to sweep, dust and air your kitchen? Or how to make soap and how to remove stains? Does he offer suggestions for creating economical menus? Or detail how to set a table?
"I think it's an important local historic document," says Daniel Goldin, head buyer at Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop, who notes that a major publisher's edition is now long out of print and Schwartz only shifts about 30 copies of a small publishing house's version each year. Goldin doesn't even stock another available version in the shops.
"I guess it's fair to say the recipes are a bit dated and that it has keepsake value," Goldin says. "It's really for historical value (now)."
But the book is still appreciated by some and just the mention of it is enough to conjure fond memories.
"I can remember both my mother and my mother-in-law using the cookbook and then I used it when I first got married, since I didn't start out as such a good cook," says 91-year-old Gladys Nemson. "My mother-in-law gave her original cookbook to her hairdresser! I wish she had given it to me!"
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.