Monday, May 24, 2010

Cook Book Presented by The Fishwives of Charleston Oregon; Good Cake

When I was a very small creature, my family moved to Coos Bay, Oregon. My dad was a forester for the state, my mom was raising my sister and I. We lived on a slough. We had a really dumb dog, an Irish setter named Millicoma (after the river & forest in southern Oregon) (and, no, it is nothing like "melanoma") who would eat dying fish out of the slough. There was a bramble patch, and I would hack at it with a hoe while making up songs in the grey gloomy happiness of youth. We left Coos Bay for more temperate climes when I was just a smidge over three years old, so my memories are piecemeal, fragmented, and not to be trusted. Aren't all our childhood memories?

When I was home in Oregon a few years back, my mother gave me her copy of
Cook Book Presented by The Fishwives of Charleston Oregon, published by the Commercial Fishermen's Wives Association of the Port of Coos Bay in 1972. Mom came by her copy in '73, a gift from a friend at St. Monica's. I remember looking through the book and loving the hand-drawn ads, and the drawings of all the fishing boats comprising Charleston's fleet.

What I didn't remember or know was just how much this cookbook guided my meals growing up. So many recipes that I think of as "our" recipes, "family" recipes are all from the fishwives. That being said, there's no way I'll ever limit myself to a mere seven recipes from this book. My love for it seemed a good way to kick this blog back into gear.
Good Cake

1/2 c. McKay's margarine
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. McKay's flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs or whites of 4
Flavor to suit yourself

Mix well, bake at 350 till done. This recipe comes from an old old cook book. I double the recipe and then make 3 9-inch layers, very good frosted with 7 minute icing topped with coconut.

--Pat Loomis
McKay's is still open, so if you find yourself in Coos Bay, and you want to bake a cake, by all means, use the specified brand. Otherwise, embrace the fact that McKay's was a big advertiser in the cookbook, and so you can probably substitute your favorite brands in good health.

I'm not at all sure why "GREAT GRANDMOTHERS" are a part of the recipe, or, at least, why it's in the recipe where it is. "Great Grandmother's Good Cake" would make a good title, and is probably what this receipt is really about.

For the flavor, you could go basic vanilla, or (if you're using coconut) how about some rum?

I know you're shocked; I'm suggesting booze.

I do not think I ever ate "Good Cake." See, there's a little hand-written note at the end of the recipe...
Bake 30 min--It falls if oven door is opened. Not to good. JB
"JB" is the woman who gave Momma this cookbook. All spelling is hers.

Patos, Owner-Skipper Victor H Purdy

As we explore Fishwives of Charleston, I'll post some of the (really quite cool) art work. This cookbook was a labor of love, and feels very different from the more formulaic fundraiser cookbooks you find at jumble sales. There's a sense of time, a sense of the authors, and boy golly, a sense of place.

So. Many. Fish. Recipes.

But that can wait until tomorrow.


  1. I absolutely LOVE that you're doing this cookbook!

  2. There are far, far, far too many recipes I want to do from this... I think this week will be all baked goods, and the next time I do this book, it'll be all fish dishes.

  3. Hooray for you and for your Mom. I was, amny years ago, a Charleston Fishwife. You are absolutely bang on, it was designed with love. In 1976, we did a hard back edition of
    this book for the USA Bi-Centennial.
    Remember to eat lots of fish!
    f/v pursuit

  4. Ms. Vanderpool, thank you so much for commenting here! I love this cookbook so much, and it doesn't surprise me at all that you had to come out with more editions.