A Sweet Find: Discovering Mattole Valley’s Old Family Recipes

Cover of the Mattole Valley's Favorite Recipes

Cover of the Mattole Valley’s Favorite Recipes

One of our readers found an old cookbook from Humboldt County called “Mattole Valley’s Favorite Recipes” on eBay and shared it with us before donating it to the Mattole Valley Historical Society (MVHS). This little book is like a time machine to the kitchens of the 1950s and 60’s in the Mattole Valley, filled with recipes from families who have been around for ages.

The reader thinks it’s from the 50s because of the family names in it—like the Etters, Hunters, and Hadleys—reminding us of a time when these names were prominent in the area. Plus, one of the recipes comes from Verna Lindley, who we know passed away in 1966, so the book has to be from around then at the latest.

Adding to the historical flavor, the Ferndale Enterprise, which opened it’s doors in 1878, printed this cookbook. Looking through its pages, you can almost smell the dishes these families shared at their tables, bringing a piece of the past into the present.

Two pages from the Mattole Valley's Favorite Recipes

Two pages from the Mattole Valley’s Favorite Recipes

We can’t show you the whole book, but we’ve picked a few pages to share and you can check out more here. The recipes are, for the most part, simple, hearty, and full of the flavors that have been loved in Mattole Valley for generations. Some of them could be cooked today and some are not in vogue any more.

Sending the cookbook to the Mattole Valley Historical Society means it’ll be safe and maybe they can even tell us more about when it was made. In any case, the book’s a lovely snapshot of the valley’s cooking and community from a time gone by, making us feel all warm and fuzzy thinking about people coming together over good food.

Two pages from the Mattole Valley's Favorite Recipes

Two more pages from the Mattole Valley’s Favorite Recipes

Here’s some of the names of those who provided recipes.

Mrs. Belle Miner
Mrs. Lee Miner
Margaret Roscoe
Marie Roscoe
Doris Lindley
Adele Torp
Cora Reishus
Mildred Graham
Mary Kelsey
Amy Mathews
Anna Crawford
Helena Chambers
Georgia Chambers
Mrs. John Chambers
Maude Hunter
Mrs. Ray Hunter
Mrs. Ray E. Hunter
Elizabeth Roberts
Olive Landergen
Rose Poole
Emily Gray
LaVerne Heider
Helen Clark
Lois Gillespie
Eva Etter
Lillian Drewry
Anna S. Boots
Geneva Lockwood
Mrs. R. B. Poole
Mrs. R. C. West
Elsie Crippen
Hattie Titus
Marjorie Cook
Minnie Bellamy
Velma Childs
Myrle French
Florence French
Minnie Hayter
Virginia Curzon
Mrs. Jos. N. D. Hindley
Mrs. Cecil Jo Hindley
Maryann Hindley
Jennie Johnston
Stella Dunn
Frances Flemming

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Chuck U
Guest
Chuck U
3 months ago

Where do I get the mink for the scalloped salmon?

Guess
Guest
Guess
3 months ago
Reply to  Chuck U

Check your closet, or a yard sale.

fireradioD
Member
fireradio
3 months ago

We arrived in the Mattole finally, after 5 years of camping out on our land on vacations, in the summer of 1978. When I look in my copy of the Mattole Grange’s recipe book, I see names of those Grange members who were installed after 1978. This recipe book was put out more than once, as there are entries from 1934 to 1985, stated on the cover. My book has a yellow cover. In looking through it, I’m sure I didn’t offer any recipes, because my husband was a better cook than I am.
So many names mentioned of Grangers and others who have passed on, and were the driving force in keeping that wonderful hall repaired and functioning. My book even has a pit barbecue recipe that they may have used prior to adding the safety of the cement walls on the existing pit, where the roasts are placed on the rack, covered with wet canvas, and secured sometime in the early morning hours, often taking the full 7 hours to burn down enough hardwood to make the coals required. For a few years, my husband helped Clarence Chang prepare the roasts and keep away the wandering fellows who had imbibed enough tailgate cocktails to cause them to stagger over to try to help feed the fire, as the barbecues were on Sundays, after a Grange dance in the hall…

Bug on a Windshield
Guest
Bug on a Windshield
3 months ago
Reply to  fireradio

Ahhh, memories.

In the 70s & 80s we’d do a pit turkey for Thanksgiving down in Anza Borrego Desert.
Day 1: the kids scoured the area for lunch pale sized rocks while the adults, um, I don’t know, brined themselves. Actually, the dads dug the 4x4x4 foot pit. The moms prepped for the next day. Any time a kid checked in with no rocks, looking for directions to another kid’s quarry find, he’d (we were mostly boys in our extended family; a couple girls but that family rarely came out) have to swing the pick a few times into the Summer hardened desert floor and shovel it out; then back out for rocks. That night we all sat around the campfire crumpling newspaper and throwing it into the pit.
Day 2: Before the early desert sunrise, the dads were burning what seemed like a half cord of wood in the pit. As the coals would build up, the rocks would be placed in with more wood. Once it was determined there were enough coals and the rocks had heated sufficiently, a nest was made out of rocks. The turkey had by then been prepped, wrapped in cheese cloth and wrapped in probably a full roll of foil. Bailing wire was then tied around the bird leaving a long tail of wire and lowered into the rock nest. A few remaining rocks were delicately snuggled up and over the foiled buttered ball. Coals were shoveled onto the rocks. The hole was back filled. The kids were told to get lost. The grownups brined on aluminum-canned Alzheimer Busch. As the sun reached the peaks of the western mountain the kids returned with tales of mischief only to be told a decade later.

The hole was re-dug by the juiced dads (cause now it was easy . . . and the sand was very very VERY hot). Our eyes widened as we saw the first coals. Then wider as the rocks appeared. Extreme care was taken not to break the iridescent golden brown foil with the rocks or shovel. A digging bar was fed through the looped tail of bailing wire. The uncovered treasure was hoisted out and onto the Dodge Power Wagon tailgate prepping station. With each layer of foil and cheesecloth that was surgically removed, we all grew a little more dehydrated like Pavlov’s salivating Dog anticipating a tasty morsel.

A dad reached for a leg bone. Burnt himself, grabbed a potholder, took hold of the leg again, paused for affect, turned slowly looking at each of us individually, then back at the bird, and pulled. The bone was as clean as if it had sat in the desert since last Thanksgiving. The canned cranberries couldn’t have melted in our mouths easier then this turkey.

Each new kid or guest, including myself, has tried sleeping, later that night, near the back filled pit. Within a few hours, they’d be dripping with sweat and dragging their bag to the line of kids layed out on the desert sand like a row of busses waiting to be jumped by Evel Knievel. As we nodded off to sleep with overfull bellies, we watched the high altitude jets fly past, waiting for their slower and faint engine roar to catch up. We even saw an occasional Space Shuttle orbit by. Good times.

Thanks RHBB, fireradio, and the Sunday night Int’l Space Station fly over for some relived memories.

Last edited 3 months ago
Bug on a Windshield
Guest
Bug on a Windshield
3 months ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

Oh gosh. (Sheepishly rolls eyes, tilts a dropped head, curls shirt tail around finger, kicks an invisible pebble.) Thank you.

Steve Koch
Guest
Steve Koch
3 months ago

Very well written!👍

Bug on a Windshield
Guest
Bug on a Windshield
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Koch

Thanks!

I am a robot
Guest
I am a robot
3 months ago

I love you for the “alzheimers busch” alone. Bless your heart 😂😂😂😂😂

Bug on a Windshield
Guest
Bug on a Windshield
3 months ago
Reply to  I am a robot

My Gra’ma used to joke, on the days she had her wits about her, that she forgot the cans were killing her and would like another.

Mr. Clark
Member
Mr. Clark
3 months ago
Reply to  fireradio

I remember Clarence. Thanks
I remember 4th of July BBQ, in the 60s. Some good food.

Mike
Guest
Mike
3 months ago
Reply to  fireradio

Clarence’s BBQ was hands down the BEST! Loved that strong man

Cetan Bluesky
Guest
Cetan Bluesky
3 months ago

Wonderful!

Redwood Dan
Guest
Redwood Dan
3 months ago

This is cool! We found a few old cook books at the thrift store from the Rio Dell Volunteer Fire Department in the early ‘80’s. They have a few obscure dishes that are pretty good.

Chris
Guest
Chris
3 months ago
Reply to  Redwood Dan

Dan that’s cool. I’m on the Rio Dell fire department now. I would like to see that.

farfromputin
Member
farfromputin
3 months ago

Thanks, Kym. Exciting food ideas and info.

clearlakefool
Guest
clearlakefool
3 months ago

my dad worked for the phone company way back then and was involved with changing out phone to dial phones . i still have the original switchboard from the 30s that my dad removed but not sure if petrolia or mattole .
i would be happy to donate it someday

Lori Lindley Cook
Guest
Lori Lindley Cook
3 months ago
Reply to  clearlakefool

I am one of the Co directors of the Mattole Valley Historical society. We are gathering items from the Mattole Valley for our Museum. We would love to have that to put on display. Please feel free to contact me.

laura cooskey
Guest
laura cooskey
1 month ago
Reply to  clearlakefool

Yes, please do be in touch (as Lori Cook suggests). I missed this a couple of months ago because i was travelling. Don’t know if you will be alerted to this response. Are you a Schonrock or a Johnston? I am putting together a story on the Mattole’s phone systems now, for the Mattole Valley Historical Society. Would love to connect. Call me at 707-629-3562, thanks!

Milton Phegley
Guest
Milton Phegley
3 months ago

Love this. I have my copy straight from one of the contributors. My great aunt was Lillian (Lillie) Drewry from Petrolia. Her contributions were Heavenly Hash (a dessert), Clam Fritters, and Crab Louie. These community cookbooks like this are a valuable source of local history, genealogy, cultural, and food information. A friend who collects them reports that there are over two hundred different titles from Humboldt County beginning in at least 1898. Cookbooks are easily collectible … they’re available at yard sales, estate sales, flea markets, etc., usually for no more than one dollar each. Grab a few and read about what the community was doing and thinking and eating sixty, eighty, or one hundred years ago. Organize a community event where everyone cooks one recipe out of a selected cookbook!! Summer fun!!

CsMisadventures
Guest
CsMisadventures
3 months ago

I’m old enough to remember Mrs. Roscoe’s toll house cookies. Their old home is now the Mattole Valley Historical Society’s new digs.

Scout
Guest
Scout
3 months ago

So much fun! Spotted my friend’s grandma’s name in the middle of the list and sent this article to her.
My friend used to come up from the Sacramento area to spend time on grandma’s ranch when she was a beautiful blonde teenager and go to dances at the Grange. All the boys wanted to dance with her, but they often seemed to be more interested in how many acres grandma owned than anything else!

Scout
Guest
Scout
3 months ago

PS to my earlier post. Sent this article to my friend, and she replied:
“How fun! I have a copy somewhere. Funny story, a young lady, think she was a student, came to interview my grandmother, and for some reason, she gave her recipes for cooking raccoons and possums (if I remember right.) They published a cook book with the recipes. Eva would have had to have been starving to eat those animals.”

She’s not sure if Grandma was just messing with the student, or if she was just trying to share historical information about what the pioneers had to resort to sometimes back in the day.

Terri O’neill
Guest
Terri O’neill
3 months ago

I see a recipes from my mother, my grandmother and my great aunt. Phyllis Branstetter, Hattie Titus and Mildred Graham. I also recognize many of the other people in the book, as I spent many days in Petrolia in my childhood. Thank you for sharing this book.

Jacoby Creek Beauty
Guest
Jacoby Creek Beauty
3 months ago

I have only one word…Mink.