I received my prized 1941-1942 Neighbor Lady cookbook last week and immediately took time to sit down and read it front to back. It’s evident that after the first book they perfected the format, for the first one is nowhere near as organized as the subsequent books. In fact, all the recipes are just lumped together without headings. On the inside cover there is a photo of a very young Wynn Speece:
What I love the best about these books are the little comments that previous owners have written in the margins. Many ladies have written little notes like “try” next to recipes that seemed promising, or notes about ones that were successful:
The rye bread does sound good, actually.
And toward the back of the book are the letters, favorite verses, household hints, and a list of people who won good deed dollars. Here is Wynn’s explanation:
A novel idea, eh? — a radio station encouraging friendliness and helpfulness and actually rewarding people for their efforts. The list was long and a couple pages in length.
See any familiar names?
In the letters section, I saw one that I think must have been the inspiration for these books to begin:
She was planning on keeping a notebook full of the recipes and helpful hints that she encountered during the show, and voila! The Neighbor Lady books were born. That’s my theory, anyway.
And yes, I’m sticking to it.