Call me old school all you want but I like a hard copy recipe when cooking in the kitchen. While perusing my cookbook selection, I pulled two well-used ones from the shelf, leafing through the pages for recipes as my eyes scanned for just the right one, then closing the books to find the dog-eared pages and opening to those. At some point I mentally acknowledged these two cookbooks were Virginia through and through, as am I.
“Dining with the Daltons” was published by Mrs. John Dalton — Eddy — while her husband was Virginia Governor from 1978-82, is personally inscribed by her, and includes a collection of her favorite recipes. In it you can find Mrs. Dalton’s Virginia Apple Cake. There’s even a recipe from Mamie Vest for “Mamie’s Walnut Pumpkin Pie” with the added note from Mrs. Dalton, “Mamie Vest has won prizes with her recipes. She has worked on most of John’s campaigns.” I didn’t know Mrs. Vest in those days when I was fresh out of high school and working in Richmond but these days she and I are Facebook friends which proves it certainly is a small world. Both recipes are very seasonal for this time of year in Virginia — pumpkins and apples.
“Virginia Hospitality” is a collection of recipes “from 200 years of gracious entertaining,” and is filled with many dog-eared recipes that have been staples in my family for years. It is inscribed on the inside cover by my mom who gave both cookbooks to me. Also a native of the this great Commonwealth, Mom is oh-so-Virginia … an epitome of the Virginia Creed that says, “To be a Virginian either by birth, marriage, adoption, or even on one’s mother’s side is an introduction to any State in the Union, a passport to any foreign country, and a benediction from above.”
In this wonderfully electronic age we’ve found ourselves living in with everything available on portable electronic screens, it’s somehow comforting to have hard copy in hand (hard copy — that’s also a new term since the days when I grew up). I’ve cooked with my laptop on the kitchen counter following the recipe, and I’ve printed out recipes from the Food Channel and now-famous cooks. Somehow they are not the same as the original cookbook with the printed ingredients and instructions, often with illustrations of the dish, and with my notes written in the margins of additions, helpful hints, and other custom changes made throughout the years.
So call me Old School all you want … but these are my velveteen cookbooks and they’re not going anywhere. Now, back to the kitchen….
Update: After publishing this post, I heard from Mamie Vest who gave permission to share her remarks:
Thanks, Lynn. I worked with Eddy to design and produce two Dining with the Daltons cookbooks; the first (black cover) while Dalton was governor and the second (red cover) after he left office. The second one included many photos of events at the Mansion and recipes from those who enjoyed the first cookbook. Collector items now!
Those cookbooks were major projects. The idea was born when I produced a small cookbook with Eddy’s recipes for a campaign handout. Best I remember, I had 100,000 printed. At several events, we used recipes (such as the wonderful shrimp dip) at receptions. Eddy was a wonderful cook back then — had to be with four children!
And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, you know the rest of the story. Thanks, Mrs. Vest!
Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell