Latter-day Saint women pioneered many food traditions. Although they are best known for their funerary potatoes, researchers have studied their involvement in the American canning tradition Where baking bread.
As Latter-day Saint pioneer women crossed the plains to the Salt Lake Valley, they were talking about flour. Scholar Kris Wright said“Discussions of flour are ever-present on the Mormon trail, whether deliberations about how much can be taken, how little rationing took place, and how bread (or substitutions) were made during the Westward Migration and Early Utah Period).”
Even in the early minutes of Relief Society, women discussed building a neighborhood bakery for Salt Lake City’s 15th Ward. Along with women’s conversations about flour and their dreams of starting bakeries, Relief Society cookbooks emerged and became popular. Here is a brief history of them.
Pioneer women began share recipes on the track. They took with them recipes from us, but they also had to carefully adapt the recipes due to the lack of ingredients. Food shortages meant women had to be creative.
A Danish immigrant mother made “corn surprises.” She would grind dried corn and add whatever ingredients she could – sometimes it was parsley, other times it was chopped hard-boiled eggs. Another pioneering recipe was called “a pioneering haystack.” Similar to a sea cookie, they would combine rolled oats with flour, shortening, cream or buttermilk, salt or baking soda for an easy to eat cookie.
After the pioneers arrived in Utah, they continued to cook and bake. They made more elaborate meals until Brigham Young educated families to simplify the preparation of their meals. Mary Isabella Horne, Eliza R. Snow and other women formed the Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Association in 1870 and said of meal preparation: will be considered fashionable.”
The women often wrote down their recipes in their diaries. These never-before-seen cookbooks documented what pioneer women ate on a daily basis. Sarah Mendenhall, who lived in Springville, Utah, checked in simple recipes like pea cakes and pickled plums in her diary. A 1969 issue of The Improvement Era contains a Johnny Cakes recipe that pioneer women made. It turns out that Johnnycakes were Joseph Smith’s favorites.
According to the information contained in the Church History CatalogRelief Societies in some neighborhoods began producing cookbooks in the early 1900s, when cookbooks began to become popular.
In 1907, the Relief Society of the University Branch of the New Zealand Mission published a cookbook. The first pages list the names and addresses of the women who contributed to the cookbook.
They offer “clever tips” that readers might find interesting. For example, the cookbook said, “Heat a lemon well before squeezing and you’ll get almost double the amount of juice.”
The cookbook is divided into sections like casseroles, vegetables, desserts, and salads. Going back to the casseroles section, it reads: “If you want every meal to please the appetite, keep a generous supply of casserole recipes handy.”
Among classics like Lenore Bennis’ Shepherd Pie and Relief Society Magazine’s Quick Bacon-Noodle Casserole, there are funkier favorites like Carrot Soufflé. Variations on scalloped potatoes appeared in the vegetable section, with funeral potatoes nowhere to be found.
The Rexburg, Idaho, Relief Society published a 1930 spiral bound cookbook with 98 pages of recipes. The Church History Catalog also includes cookbooks from Guam in 1959 and the neighborhood of Bonneville in 1973. Utah Pioneer Daughters in Vernal, Utah emerged with their spiral-bound cookbook in 1960. Now considered vintage and a rare find, this cookbook contains pioneering recipes.
Containing classics like “Lazy Housewife Pickles” and “Strawberry Jam,” the Latter-day Saint tradition of canning and preserving is alive and well in this cookbook.
More modern Latter-day Saint cookbooks include the 1980 “Lion House Recipes.” The famous buns make an appearance, alongside Utah’s favorite honey butter. Helen Thackery includes a recipe called Potato Casserole. Complete with cream of chicken, sour cream, cheddar cheese, potatoes, butter, and cornflakes on top, this potato casserole looks like it’s just funeral potatoes by a name. different.
“The Essential Mormon Cookbook: Combo Edition” by Julie Badger Jensen compiles recipes from pioneer women to modern women. She organizes the cookbook by seasons and gives complete meal plans for the holidays. As Pioneer Day approached, I looked to see his expert suggestions: Pioneer Beef Stew, Whole Wheat Quick Bread, Sourdough Bread, Coleslaw, Plum Cobbler, and Molasses Taffy are appeared in the range. She said, “After a long day’s work, the pioneers spent many happy hours singing, dancing and assembling taffy. It’s old-fashioned fun for all.
Written by “ordinary women,” these cookbooks preserve the diverse and eclectic heritage of Latter-day Saint women and document their culture.