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Notes from Glen Ellen: Friendly Circle Cook Book

Those of a certain age will remember a time when women’s primary responsibility was in the home. And a certain cuisine developed in the 1950s involving a lot of gelatin, canned green beans, Campbell’s mushroom soup, sweetened condensed milk and the “ice box.”

A charming little cookbook, compiled by, one presumes, several housewives of Glen Ellen, has been gifted to the Glen Ellen Historical Society by Laura Saunders. It’s a pamphlet-sized compilation of home recipes typed on a typewriter on now-yellowing paper, and is bound by a wrapping of oil cloth with aqua, red and yellow designs featuring teapots, fruits and flowers, placed in a quilt-like pattern.

Inside, a band of friends contribute to a round-robin cookbook they called the “Friendly Circle Cookbook.” The title page of the typed Cook Book is hand-drawn, and says: “Valley of the Moon. Friendly Circle Cook Book, 1935-1949,” and in elaborate script, “Home Tested Recipes.”

Inside, someone has proudly typed the Friendly Circle’s motto: “To give aid in the community where it is needed. To be friendly… in the true sense of the word.“

The Friendly Circle Committee included Sue G. Richards, Edna Lawson, Adelaide Sauerbrey, Frankie Carl, Ruth M. James, Lida Hunter, all of whom express thanks to the many contributors, including May Bidwell, Mrs. M. A. Cunningham, Ruth M. James, Frieda Skerl, Cora Tucker, Mrs. Sherwood, Mrs. Bertha Moon, Mrs. Geo Thompson, Mrs. Gould, Mrs. Lida Longenecker, Mrs. M. T. Zane, and more Glen Ellen women of the 1930s and ’40s.

Abbreviations are listed: “c = cupfull, oz = ounce, sq = square”, etc., and then lists in the Table of Contents: Pot Luck, Meats, Fish, and later Fluffs, Souffles and Crunches, Cookies and Bars, Pickles and Preserves and the like.

Adelaide Sauerbrey offers her Po-Mato Casserole. May Bidwell recommends something she calls More (ground steak and pork, olives, peas, tomatoes, one can tomato soup). Mock Raviola is Frankie Carl’s contribution.

Mock Chow Mane (sic) and Sub-Gum are personal favorites of Adelaide Sauerberry. There’s Upside-down Meat Squares from Mrs. C. Larson, Eggplant Melonzani from Mrs. Sherwood, Swiss Steak in Sour Cream from Ruth M. James, Escalloped Corn from Marietta Hoffman, Sweet and Sour Beans, Topsy Turvey Meat Pie, Pork Chops Ring-A-Round, and more.

The desserts include seven varieties of fudge – divinity, white, fool-proof, walnut ‒ and many types of “ice box cookies” where you make the dough, it firms up in the ice box and you later slice it to be baked. Hey kids, do you know what an “ice box” is?

There’s something sentimental about this little booklet. These women were good-hearted and community-minded enough to share their successful recipes with neighbors, and took the time to collect and hand-type their beloved formulations in the hope that someone else would appreciate them. Certainly simpler than our fussy methods of today “petit steak tartar with pomegranate glaze and pommes frittes with Croque Madame over winter greens, followed by….”

There may be descendants of these good women who still live in Glen Ellen, who remind us: “To be friendly… in the true sense of the word.“

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