Cookbooks : One Old and One New

Cookbooks : One Old and One New

“The Blue Ribbon Cook Book,” Jennie C. Benedict, University of Kentucky Press 2022 (a paperback reprint of the 1922 edition)

It’s no surprise that I love cook books. Not just for the recipes, but for what they tell us about the authors who write the books and the home cooks who use them.This time, the spotlight is on two very different cookbooks: “The Blue Ribbon Cook Book” by Jennie C. Benedict and “50 Things to Bake Before You Die” by Allyson Reedy.

Jenny C. Benedict published the very first edition of “The Blue Ribbon Cookbook” in 1904. The book’s fourth edition appeared in 1922, and the new (2022) paperback edition is a reprint issued by The University Press of Kentucky. 

Why, you might ask, would anyone find it necessary to bother with a reprint of a 100-year old cookbook?  Susan Reigler, a Louisville native who was the restaurant critic for the city’s “Courier-Journal” newspaper from 1992-2006, provides the answer at the very beginning of her introduction, which is a “must” read.

Referred to simply as “Miss Jenny” by her contemporaries, Jenny Benedict was born in Harrods Creek, Kentucky in 1860. She launched her business from her home in Louisville in1893, and by the time she was forty, she was the city’s most prominent caterer and the owner of a successful tearoom, where several of her signature preparations, including her famous mayonnaise, could be purchased.

it’s not the only reason to buy the cookbook. As Reigler points out, “The Blue Ribbon Cookbook” is “a very practical cookbook, easy to use, with lots of shortcuts, kitchen tricks, and tips on cooking techniques from Miss Jenny.”

Oddly enough, the book doesn’t contain a recipe for “Benedictine,” Miss Jenny’s famous sandwich filling. Made with a mix of cream cheese and cucumber juice, the spread was served on soft white bread (crusts removed) cut into diagonal quarters. Benedictine is still a local favorite, and Reigler offers several versions, including the following.


8 ounces of cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons cucumber juice

1 tablespoon onion juice

1 teaspoon salt

A few grains of cayenne pepper

2 drops green food coloring

To get the juice, peel and grate a cucumber, then wrap in a clean dish towel and squeeze juice into a dish. Discard pulp. Do the same for the onion. Mix all ingredients with a fork until well blended. Using a blender will make the spread too runny.

“50 Things to Bake Before You Die” by Allyson Reedy, Ulysses Press $24.95

Allyson Reedy’s book delivers a mouthwatering collection of recipes culled from some of the nation’s top baking blogs, bakeries and chefs. The photos are irresistible, the recipes easy to follow, even when the dessert requires two or more preparations. 

The “Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Curd and Sugared Blueberries” from Sugar Bakeshop in Charleston, SC, for example, has four different preparations, one each for the vanilla cake, the lemon curd, the lemon buttercream frosting, and the topping. But given photographer Greg McBoat’s picture, the cake is well worth the effort.

Not all of the recipes are complicated. Baking blogger Tessa Arias’ (Handle the Heat) “Chewy Brownies,” for example, require nothing more than a single bowl, a whisk, a spatula, and an 8×8-inch pan.

Defending her somewhat morbid title, Reedy concludes: “All of this is to say that I encourage you to go for it. To bake with reckless abandon, no matter how many steps the recipe asks of you. Because life isn’t measured by how many breaths you take, but by how many bites of Biscoff white chocolate blondies you take. So bake them.”

Amen to that….

Chewy Brownies

Makes one 8×8-inch pan

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk, cold

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325-degrees F. Line and 8×8-inch pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a microwave-safe bowl, add the butter and sugar. Microwave for about 1 minute, or until the butter is melted. Whisk in the eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla. Stir in the oil and cocoa powder.

3. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. Spread the brownie batter evenly into the prepared pan. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the brownies are set and a toothpick inserted in the center has moist crumbs attached. Do not overcook, Let cook completely before cutting and serving.

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