Elaine Revelle: Drawing on a delicious, fun past

Elaine Revelle: Drawing on a delicious, fun past


With this Spoon I’m going to take a new look at an old era.

Even with the clamor of 2020 still ringing in my ears, all I hear is the “twenties” and I want to explore that decade from a foodie’s perspective.

I did a little research and came up with some amazing information. As always, each generation reinvents a previous era, and now is no exception.

I’ve been chuckling for a couple of years as the millennials invented/discovered kale, avocados and Brussels sprouts. Nothing new there. They’ve been high on my list of regular foods for years.

Well, maybe I’ve had an advantage. Being a fourth-generation Californian with relatives from here to Ojai who regularly kept the family supplied with produce and protein, these so-called new foods are nothing new to me.

It was my grandmother who sparked the foodie in me. A great cook and Valley native, she saw to it that we all ate local and healthy.

Born in the late 1800s she had the weighty name of Willa Glennora Bray Freear, the 1920s could have been designed for her. She was innovative, flamboyant and a flapper from head to toe. And I have pictures to prove it.

Charismatic, generous, kind and musical, she was my idol as I grew up. The Santa Ynez Valley became my Mecca due to frequent visits to family and her friends.

So, in honor of the upcoming decade and a salute to my grandmother and her roaring tales of the ‘20s I decided to do a little exploring of foods of that era.

Delving into my cookbook collection I unearthed a couple of treasures from the ‘20s and decided that this is the year to revisit some 100-year-old recipes.

All this is leading up to my aim of locating recipes from the ‘20s and sharing a dish a month from the fabled era.

A quick look at my cook book collection turned up an old favorite. From the Ladies Aid of Santa Ynez I have a 1926 edition of “A Cook Book.” In fact, I have three copies, one an original given to me by Mrs. Squire, a long-time and legendary resident of Fredensborg Canyon. The other two are by self-appointed Valley historian Jim Norris, who dug up a copy, reprinted it in 1983 and included brief biographies of all the contributors. I love both editions.

Mrs. Squire’s gift is a real treasure. Being an original, it’s somewhat fragile and tattered. Jim’s is still pristine and I love the history. As luck would have it, the family he chose as an example of early residents just happens to be mine.

In it he writes that my great great grandfather Tobias Jamison was born in 1831 in Allegheny, Maryland. He came to California with his bride Mary Elizabeth Cooksey in 1857. In 1880 they relocated to Santa Ynez with their 15 children, one of which was my great grandmother Mary Scott. The rest is history.

On page one of the reprint I found a cornbread recipe from Ione Jamison and it speaks from my childhood. So, here it is in Ione’s own words.


Two cups yellow cornmeal, 1 cup wheat flour, 1 egg, 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder, 1 level buttermilk to make a medium batter, add beaten egg. Put 2 tablespoons shortening in bake pan and melt, pour in the mixture. Beat thoroughly and bake in a rather hot oven.

NOTE: A little cryptic in places, but I did the Google thing and found that a moderate oven ranges from 350 to 375 degrees, and a very hot oven goes from 400 to 450 degrees. So, take your pick. However, I think a “rather hot” oven probably ranges from 375 to 400 degrees.

Welcome to a reboot of the 1920s — and have fun!

Long-time Valley resident Elaine Revelle can be reached at thewoodenspoon@juno.com


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