Just for Fun: Aunt Sammy’s Radio Recipes

April 19, 2010

When I first got the idea to blog about Aunt Sammy’s Radio Recipes, I figured that I’d be shedding light on a totally forgotten Government publication. I remembered Aunt Sammy as the title character of an odd-sounding booklet that GPO was selling in my early days here. When I searched the Internet, though, she was everywhere. Cooking sites, old time radio sites, newspaper sites – who knew?

On October 4, 1926, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Bureau of Home Economics and the Radio Service launched its Housekeeper’s Chat show, featuring Aunt Sammy – Uncle Sam’s wife, of course. In addition to meals and recipes, she talked about all kinds of other household matters, but it was the recipes that got listeners’ attention. In 1927 USDA put the most popular recipes into a pamphlet: Aunt Sammy’s Radio Recipes. According to the introduction to the 1976 USDA reprint (the one I remembered hearing about),  “The demand was so great that it had to be reprinted after only a month. ‘Aunt Sammy’s Radio Recipes’ was revised and enlarged three times between 1927 and 1931. In 1932 it became the first cookbook published in braille.”

Aunt Sammy vanished in 1934 and the show did likewise in 1946, yet her memory lingers on. I discovered that the 1931 edition has been reprinted by a private publisher and is still available. I like the 1976 edition, which you can find here, because it has contemporary recipes from USDA as well as some 1920’s favorites. It’s all what I think of as “hearty fare” or “comfort food” – definitely BA (before arugula). What with diners and such making a comeback, our Aunt Sammy may be more contemporary than we think. Maybe I’ll have meatloaf tonight…

Dr. Seuss, U.S. Army

March 31, 2010

When I was a kid, I loved to rummage through a bunch of pamphlets that had belonged to my Uncle Teddy. I never knew my uncle because he went missing in action in the Pacific during World War II, so for me his memory was perpetuated mainly by these little U.S. Government booklets about getting along in China, North Africa, Iran, and other wartime hot spots. One of my favorites was “Meet Ann…She’s Dying to Meet You,” a 36-pager about the perils of contracting malaria from the Anopheles mosquito. The illustrations were cartoons, usually showing some poor sap (it’s easy to fall back into the slang of the era) getting bitten by Ann or failing to employ mosquito netting.

Fast forward a good many years to a Federal depository library conference featuring a talk on “Government Publications as Rare Books.” The presenter said, “This booklet goes for $600 and up” and flashed the cover of “Meet Ann” on the screen. Yikes! The cartoonist was Dr. Seuss when he was Captain Ted Geisel, U.S. Army, and this little pamphlet is one of his hardest to find publications. The author of the text was no slouch, either: Munro Leaf, author of “Ferdinand the Bull.” As soon as I got home, I put my little pamphlet in a safer place! My copy probably would be worth even more if I hadn’t “autographed” it on the back cover when I was about 10. Oh, well…

 If you’d like to take a peek at “Meet Ann” online, try this USDA site.


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