I have several very cute, tiny little cookbooks by an author named Ruth Chier Rosen. They're just darling and come in little boxes that have the same graphics as the book covers. I discovered them through my friend and publicist, Jennifer Cohan, who had one called Entertaining Snacks After Dark (1962). A few years ago that book became a tiny little obsession - a perfect match for the tiny little books! I made "Ruth Chier Rosen" a watched search on eBay and waited to pounce on the book when it came available. While I waited I had the opportunity to pounce a few more times on some of her other mini masterpieces. I acquired Having a Ball - Party Menus & Recipes for Every Occasion (1959), and The Big Spread - An Encyclopedia of Hors D'oeuvres and Canapes (1953). So now I own three of these cute little books.
Aside from their cuteness and Ruth's penchant for titles that have a slightly risque double entendre (the chafing dish book is called "Wick and Lick"), the books have some fascinating recipes in them. Between the covers of The Big Spread, you can learn how to make Strawberries Marquisee, which are faux strawberries formed from chopped liver and rolled in bread crumbs that have been dyed red with food coloring and Beet Sticks, which are, basically, borscht popsicles.
These oddities aside, she has a charming recipe for Cheese Straws - one of my favorites:
2 t salt
4 c flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening or lard
12 oz grated sharp cheddar
3 T butter
1 T sherry
Combine the salt, flour, 1/2 cup butter, shortening or lard and water to make pastry and chill. Blend cheese, 3 T butter and cayenne until smooth. When chilled, roll out pastry into a large rectangle and spread the cheese mixture on it. Fold the pastry in thirds and roll out again and refold. Do this twice more for a total of 4 times. Chill again. Preheat the over to 400 degrees. Re-roll and cut into long narrow strips. Beat the egg with the sherry and then brush it on the strips. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and bake until golden brown and puffed.
These books won't provide you with every day fare, but there are some nice recipes in them and their size and the novelty of the matching box make them perfect gifts for the historically epicurious. If you're mother appreciates ironic vintage recipes, why not give her one for mothers day? They can be found on many used book websites and eBay.
Speaking of Mother's Day... Also in the picture above is our Gillian Napkin from Felix Populi. They make a charming gift as well!