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Today is October 24, 2021

Featured Cookbook

‘The Monticello Hostess’

‘The Monticello Hostess’

Lynda Rhymes Clay, left, and Marguerite Rutledge, center, contributed recipes to the original “The Monticello Hostess.” Susan Martindale, right, has reprinted the 1951 edition of the popular cookbook as a charitable fundraiser.

    When Susan Martindale of Monticello discovered a friend’s worn-out copy of “The Monticello Hostess,” she knew she had to bring this piece of culinary history back to life. First published by the Monticello Woman’s Club in 1943, with an expanded second edition following in 1951, the cookbook taught generations of homemakers the basics of cooking before the rise of convenience foods.
    “There’s nothing instant in there. It’s all from scratch,” said Lynda Rhymes Clay, of Monticello, one of the few surviving recipe contributors. Her mother, Shellie Stewart Rhymes, collected recipes from home cooks throughout Mississippi and sold advertising space to create the first two editions of the cookbook.
    In its day, “The Monticello Hostess” was a prized wedding gift. It guided countless brides into the world of homemade breads, desserts, salad dressings, seasonings, sauces, wild game, fish and whole chickens. It taught her how to select and prepare a hen, fry doughnuts, measure shortening, prepare a wild duck and create meringues. It helped her avoid “pastry failure,” overcooked fish and other kitchen disasters.
    “There’s just such a wide variety of basic things in there, so that a young bride could venture out on her own and not have to throw away the first two or three tries,” Clay said.
    As its title implies, the cookbook offers menus and recipes for serving from one to 100, including the recipes reprinted here. Throughout the book are tips, charts, alternatives and advice to help ensure success in the kitchen.
    “This cookbook doesn’t just give you recipes. It tells you why you do what you do,” Martindale said.
    Working with a local printer, Martindale ordered 50 reprints of the 1951 edition of the cookbook, including the advertisements. “I wanted the book to look just like it did then. I thought if they don’t sell, I can give everyone I know a copy for Christmas.”
    Order inquiries began pouring in within two days of Martindale’s announcement of the project on Facebook. Since then nearly 400 have sold.
    “I couldn’t believe it but I was thrilled,” said Marguerite Rutledge, recalling her reaction to the cookbook’s resurrection. She contributed a cranberry salad recipe to the original edition.
    “The Monticello Hostess” reflects the state of Southern cooking in the mid-20th century, when chilled gelatin salads were a staple of ladies’ luncheons. Although lard has since fallen out of favor, most of these recipes—pecan pie, for one—will never go out of style. Anyone interested in preparing simple dishes with fresh ingredients will find plenty to love about this cookbook.
    Profits from cookbook sales go to Hospice Outreach in Lawrence County and to Relay For Life, through Monticello United Methodist Church.
    To order, mail $20 plus $4 postage per book to Susan Martindale, P.O. Box 2005, Monticello, MS 39654. Make check payable to Monticello United Methodist Church. For more information, call Martindale at 601-587-7949.

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