My apartment building, like many others, has a book exchange shelf in the laundry room. There I acquired the United States Regional Cookbook, published by the Culinary Arts Institute of Chicago in 1939. It’s a little yellowed, a little stained, and a little surprising.
The book is divided into ten sections, each devoted to a different region: Creole, Michigan Dutch, Southwestern, Mississippi Valley, Cosmopolitan America… In some ways it’s a look back at an America that has ceased to be for most of us. Recipes include opossum (Southern), reindeer (Western), salt codfish (New England), green kern soup (Pennsylvania Dutch; green kern is unripe grain), and lutfisk (Minnesota Scandinavian, of course, and the recipe calls for oak or maple ashes).
I should add that the casual racism of the Southern section makes my fingernails curl up, although the book does acknowledge — in different, unrepeatable terms — that many of the recipes come from African-American cooks.
The old book also includes plenty of good recipes whose ingredients I can still easily get and would enjoy, including potato soup (many varieties), apple salad, hunter’s style duck, and Kentucky fried chicken, which is pre-cooked chicken dipped in batter and deep-fried. (Now we know the colonel’s secret recipe!)
The Wisconsin Dutch section really means German: Deutsche. I grew up in Wisconsin and my great-grandmother was Wilhelmina Bertha Amelia von Haus. I was raised on braised pot roast, käsekuchen (cheese cake), sour cream potato salad, and stollen.
But stuffed crown roast of frankfurters? I think somebody pranked the editor. Still, it could be a lot of fun to bring to a Green Bay Packers tailgate party. Those are always exuberant affairs.