Transcript of Lizzie Kander's June 8, 1933 radio interview with WHAS Louisville, Kentucky
How did you come to write this book?
Oh, it’s a long, long story. It started some thirty-two years ago. I was trying to teach a group of young foreign girls in a crowded neighborhood how to cook simple and nutritious food, yet have it attractive and inexpensive as we prepare it in America. The children were all eager to do something and they readily prevailed on their mothers to give them the use of their kitchens in their limited quarters for the lessons. We were busy and happy people and soon this cooking class became so popular we outgrew these natural surroundings.
What did you do then?
Luckily, fortune smiled on us. We found a large kitchen in a centrally located Settlement. The classes were necessarily held after school. It was necessary that the children be sent home before dark. It was also necessary that they take with them the recipes so they could practice at home what they had just been taught in class. We had to have these recipes typed or printed. But what bothered us was what it would cost and where we would get the money. Finally I showed my collection of recipes to an old friend who had a large printing establishment. He asked to show it to his wife.
Well, she was just enthusiastic about them. So he suggested that we have them printed in book form, and even offered to help get sufficient funds through advertising to cover the printing and binding. All of our friends rallied to the cause. With their help we added to this collection a number of more elaborate recipes that for years were used and treasured in the families of our friends who were outstanding housekeepers. This priceless collection formed the first edition of our now famous Settlement Cook Book – The Way To A Man’s Heart. This was in 1901 and we had 1,000 copies printed. We only hoped we could sell those copies not necessary for the children in the classes. Imagine how relieved we were when in a little over a year the entire edition was exhausted. That was 32 years ago. Frequent requests came for additional copies and we were obliged, in 1903, to publish our second edition. We are now in our 19th edition. Each time the book has been enlarged and revised to meet the requirements of the times, until now there are to be found in homes all over the country nearly a half-million copies of The Settlement Cook Book – The Way To A Man’s Heart.
In what countries has it sold?
You’d be surprised that it has an international reputation and sale. We have sold our book in England, Scotland, Australia, China and Japan, Jerusalem, Mexico; the Hawaiian, Philippine, and Canary Islands; Chile and other South American countries; and Canada, Puerto Rico and many other countries.
Have you received letters from foreign countries about it?
Indeed, we receive them almost every week. Lately, a gentleman from Calcutta, India asked that the two books be sent to … [illegible passage] … anxious mother, valuing our book so highly, had one sent to her newly married daughter in San Nicolas, Dutch West Indies.
Do you think the man of the house should take an interest in cooking?
I surely like the man of the house to be interested in cooking, but only to give a helping hand in case of necessity. I really don’t think it is a man’s business to putter around in the kitchen. I want him to be surprised and pleased when he gets to the table. That is where he should forget all of his worldly cares.
A man could not do very much with a cook book, could he? Would he require teaching?
He certainly could, if he were at all handy. Let me quote from a letter we received from a woman in Ohio: “When I was away,” she writes, “… [illegible passage] … everything he likes from dumplings to pie and always a success because of your wonderful cook book which was sent to us by a domestic science teacher in Chicago when I was a bride.”
Do cook books grow old like novels, histories, etc.?
You would think so, if you would look over some of the old time cook books and read a recipe which says, “you must stir this dough from ¾ to 1 hour steadily.” Baking habits change and there are fashions in food, therefore cook books must be revised to meet the need of the times. Modern inventions like the mechanical refrigerator, oven heat regulator etc. are some of the reasons why old cook books are antiquated. Then too, greater transportation facilities make it possible for markets to introduce new foods from different sections of the country and this makes it necessary to include recipes to cover the preparation of these new and unusual things.
Where did you get the recipes for this cook book?
From all corners of the globe. Also from relatives and friends who were interested in the book and wanted to make it still more worthwhile. From home economics teachers, housewives and maids. From chefs and cooks in noted hotels and restaurants. Each recipe was always worked over many times in my own kitchen and simplified to be in keeping with the rest of the book.
Are men or women the best cooks?
Maybe you’ll think I am prejudiced but I really think that women are the best cooks. Men make the best chefs because they understand how to manage quantity cooking. But the average family needs catering to. Day in and day out. Its likes and dislikes, its health must be taken into consideration – and this daily loving care can be handled only by a woman.
Old-time cooks seldom measure portions. Their guesses seem to be pretty good to judge by their dishes. Is it best to follow measurements and why?
Old-time cooks thought all they needed was cooking sense and thought they never used measurements, but in reality, they used the same bowls, the same cups, the same handfuls every time. They cooked and baked the same thing over and over again and by tasting and practice become excellent cooks.
Today with the aid of a practical cook book like ours, with exact measurements of cups and teaspoons and explicit directions for combining mixtures, uniform results can always be expected. No wonder the bride of today soon learns to be a good cook and finds “the way to a man’s heart.”
In planning a meal, is your book of use as to vitamins and how is one to be bothered with so many details?
Yes. On page 25 there is a very simplified table of foods, arranged in groups, containing all the elements necessary for a balanced menu. If one kind of food from each of these groups is found in every meal, there is little fear of lack of nourishment or vitamin requirements.
How did you arrive at the schedule for babies and children?
We added the section on infant feeding at the request of some young mothers who were anxious to care for their babies according to the latest method. An outstanding pediatrician has prepared and edited the material for this section, which he revises with each edition as changes become necessary.
What was your guide in developing your chapter on invalid cookery?
Cooking for invalids requires special individual recipes. And the recipes in this chapter were gathered from authorized dieticians and physicians.
Do you think it is a good idea to prepare potatoes differently everyday?
Yes, I do. Any food that appears on the table daily becomes monotonous if the form is not varied. It reminds me of the time when my husband went fishing and brought home more fish than our family could consume. He wanted to have the pleasure of having his friends share the fish with him at home. But he wanted to have it served differently each time. That is why I have so many different recipes for the preparation of fish.
Don’t you think the problem of overweight is due largely to eating too much starchy food?
I certainly do. One can easily reduce his weight by abstaining from starchy foods such as bread, cakes and potatoes.
How do you account for the fact that your book has become so popular?
Because the Settlement Cook Book is primarily a home cook book. The recipes are tested in a home kitchen. They are practical, economical and reliable. The directions are given in simple language and are easy to follow. Because of America’s cosmopolitan population, the dishes of all nationalities have been included.