Before the Internet became the go-to source, good cooks like those in the Fayette Memorial Hospital Auxiliary in La Grange, Texas, took pride in compiling their favorite recipes. In their 25th anniversary cookbook assembled in 1982 using a typewriter, these Pink Ladies, as they were called, went a step further. They also packed the spiral-bound vintage volume with TLC: tidbits of local history, helpful hints, highlights of the organization’s work, and a little food for thought.

Pink Ladies’ Sample Recipe

Going to the Field Cake

The following recipe was submitted by Mrs. Alton K., whose mother always made it. It is the cake that cotton farmers in Ellinger, Texas, hurriedly baked for their afternoon lunch. (Afternoon lunch was a must and always included some form of sweet.)

½ cup butter or oleo                        2 tsp. baking powder

1 cup sugar                                         ¼ tsp. salt

1 large egg                                           1 tsp. vanilla

¾ cup milk                                            1¼ cup flour

Cream butter and sugar, add egg (slightly beaten), and milk. Sift in flour, baking powder and salt. Add vanilla. Pour into greased and floured medium size pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown or test with a toothpick.

Pink Ladies On a Mission

The title page of each food section featured sketches and descriptions of the auxiliary’s surprisingly large number and wide range of activities in support of the local hospital. It demonstrated not only the commitment of the Pink Ladies, but also their joy in being of service to their community.

Here are several excerpts.

Since 1974, babies born at Christmastime in our hospital are presented with a beautifully decorated red Christmas stocking in which to travel home. These stockings are made by one of our dedicated and talented Auxiliary ladies.

Linens, gowns, spreads, etc. are kept neatly mended by several of our Auxiliary members who have been doing the same job for 10 to 15 years. These ladies really deserve the “Golden Thimble” award for their years of service and saving the hospital great expense in replacement costs.

No baby born at Fayette Memorial Hospital leaves empty-handed. Beautiful hand-painted piggy banks – pink for girls, blue for boys, are entrusted to each new mother for safekeeping with new coins.

What began in 1957 with a coffee pot, the Auxiliary has developed into a first-class gift shop. Items such as stationery, flower arrangements, personal care items and many lovely gift items made by our ‘workshop ladies’ are sold in the shop, and have netted over $20,000. All proceeds are slated for hospital equipment.

The Pink Ladies’ Helpful Hints

  • Sprinkle a little flour in the hot fat before frying and grease will not spatter.
  • Sprinkle a frying pan with salt before adding meat to prevent fat from spattering.
  • When peeling onions, begin at the root end and peel upward. The onions will affect the eyes scarcely at all.
  • To keep cake fresh, put a few slices of fresh bread in the box with the cake.
  • When you run out of syrup on Pancake Day, try adding a little water and a dab of butter to some fruit jelly, and heat. It makes a delicious fruit syrup, and there’s plenty for all.

Some Pink Ladies’ Words to the Wise

Before repeating anything “a little bird” told you, you better make sure it wasn’t a little cuckoo.

Sunshine Cake

Into a dark and rainy day,
Stir a cupful of kind deeds;
Mix in well with some cheery thoughts
And a pint of happy seeds.
Add good humor, the size of an egg,
Love enough to make it light;
Bake in the oven of a warm heart
And the cake will be just right.

The Pink Ladies’ Dessert Picks

The original owner of my Fayette Memorial Hospital Auxiliary Cookbook, Sarah O., was a big fan of Apple Kuchen. She wrote in the margin that she baked it five times in 1983 and once in 1984. In 1985, the last year Sarah added a note about making it, she substituted wild dewberries for the apples.

Doesn’t that sound delectable?

Apple Kuchen

Recipe from Agnes S. and Minnie W.

1 pkg. butter recipe yellow cake mix
½ butter or oleo (softened)
½ cup flake coconut
1 can (20 oz. size) pie sliced applies (well drained) or 2½ cups sliced baking apples
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup dairy sour cream
2 egg yolks or 1 egg

Cut butter into cake mix, blend in coconut. Pat mixture lightly into ungreased 13×9-inch pan. Push mixture up around the sides of pan. Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

When done, arrange apple slices on warm crust, mix sugar and cinnamon, sprinkle on apples, then blend sour cream and egg and drizzle over apples. Bake 25 or more minutes or until edges are light brown at 350 degrees. This is best served warm.

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One of this vintage cookbook’s characteristics that I appreciate most is a small stain resembling chocolate icing on the front cover. That spot proves the recipe book was used often and highly prized.

I feel a sense of respect for the Pink Ladies even though I never met them. Volunteering regularly at Fayette Memorial Hospital was an evident source of pride and joy for them. This vintage cookbook, a testament to their hard work and commitment to each other and the community, reflects a unique snapshot of local history. I’m proud to own it and plan to hang onto it in honor of those Pink Ladies who accomplished so much.  

So my question is: Do you keep a traditional cookbook or two in your kitchen or do you now rely on the Internet for recipes?

Here are more of my stories with a vintage vibe:

Elaine Thomas
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