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Twenty-four women organized the Woman’s Club of Palo Alto in 1894. Ten years later, the women were a strong enough organization that they planned to build their own clubhouse. In 1904, they bought the lot at the corner of Homer and Cowper for $1,125. It took the women of the club another 12 years to raise the $5,300 to build the building. They gave concerts, held food markets, hosted costume parties, featured speakers such as Helen Keller. One of their early fundraisers was a collection of club members’ recipes.

Two copies of the cookbook, Cookery, remain in the archives of the Palo Alto Historical Association at Cubberley.

However, in order to follow the recipes, one needs to translate directions to the 21st century:

  • A peck of strawberries = 4 dry quarts; half a peck = two dry quarts
  • A little thickening = a tablespoon or two of flour or cornstarch mixed in a half cup water “Mash through a sieve” = Use a food mill
  • A quart can of tomatoes = Does not exist. Use a 28 oz. can plus one more half cup
  • A “well seasoned tomato sauce” = probably use marinara sauce
  • A quick oven = I am guessing an oven heated to 400 degrees

The recipe for Chicken Broth calls for, “An old hen makes the best broth. Cut up and put into pot with 2 quarts cold water. Simmer 6 or 7 hours in a ‘closely covered’ vessel. When the meat begins to leave the bones, take the chicken from the pot, strip off meat, crack the bones, and return all to the pot... Strain through cloth when hot, and skim off all fat when cold...”

Not attractive to today’s cooks would be “Sweet Bread Salad”. The directions say to boil “sweet breads” for 20 minutes, plunge them into cold water, then remove “the membranes and little pipes, cut into dice; lay by tablespoons on crisp lettuce leaves; cover with mayonnaise.” Mrs. Addie Wershing submitted this recipe, and at least 50 other women contributed recipes to the cookbook. – Vicki Sullivan

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