More than 66 years have passed since Martha Bozeman tested recipes and helped proofread "Chew Chew: Favorite Recipes from Columbus, Miss." She still remembers, however, working on the Junior Auxiliary fundraiser with her close friend, Wade Puckett, and other committee members who gathered around tables at the homes of Mary Alice McKellar or Mary Nesossis to work on the project with pencil and paper. The result was a compilation of more than 250 handwritten recipes from local cooks — and a peek into the culinary past.
"I used that cookbook so much, I just about wore it out," Bozeman, 96, said Dec. 17, thumbing through a newly-printed copy of the book she helped create when she was a young woman married to veterinarian Dr. Edward Clarke Bozeman. The cookbook was a gift from Bob Raymond of Columbus. He thought this bit of history was worth preserving.
It started when Raymond came across a vintage copy of the "Chew Chew" cookbook at a local estate sale. He recognized it right away. Even though Raymond's family lived in Chicago when the book was published in 1952, his mother had received a spiral-bound copy from a Columbus friend, Mary Jane Owen.
"I still have my mama's cookbook," he said. "She used it at home in Chicago."
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In 1957, Raymond's family purchased a cattle ranch in Columbus.
"I just came down in summers," Raymond recalled. "We couldn't wait to get to Mississippi."
In 1972, he headed south to attend Mississippi State University and soon immersed himself in the Golden Triangle community and especially in Columbus, which is now home. This past fall, he arranged for "Chew Chew" to become available for reprint through bookemon.com, a book creation and sharing site.
"I think this cookbook is kind of a time capsule," Raymond said of his motivation. "It came out at a time when people were still doing old-fashioned cooking; it shows the way people cooked and entertained."
The cookbook project's format — handwritten recipes, hand-drawn sketches — also appealed to him.
"I like it because it's a group of women before computers and the internet, getting together and doing this and sending it off to Chicago to get printed," he remarked. The original publisher was Gunthorp-Warren Printing Co. The book had two printings.
Good cooks like Bozeman contributed favorite recipes for dishes such as date nut cakes, ham loaf, spoon bread, chicken croquettes and minted lima beans. Sketches by Audrey Whitten accompany longhand instructions for carrot rings, tomato aspic with shrimp, Golden Glow salad, Chicken Scrapple, rum cookies and apple scotch pie.
Bozeman's three recipes in "Chew Chew" are congealed tuna salad, avocado mold and orange-pineapple sherbert.
"I loved to cook," said the home economics major who was born in Andalusia, Alabama. She later studied at the University of Montevallo. "My mother was a home economics major, and I decided I wanted to follow in her footsteps."
Bozeman was 10 when her mother passed away, so many of her early cooking influences came from watching her father, a doctor, who was handy in the kitchen — and an aunt who had a small hotel in Abbeville, Alabama.
"I was real young, but I would cashier for her, and oh, you don't know but she was a wonderful cook," Bozeman recounted. "She cooked a lot of vegetables, and her cornbread was just out of this world."
Bozeman is genuinely pleased Raymond has helped preserve something that represents such effort by so many people more than six decades ago.
For culinary context, Raymond added reprints of articles about the cookbook that ran in The Commercial Dispatch in 1952, plus a 1947 menu from the well-known Gilmer Hotel in Columbus — when a fresh dozen oyster cocktail with remoulade sauce was $1.60 and a cup of coffee was a nickel. He also added a useful index and gathered biographical snippets about as many recipe contributors as he could. (More can be added through the bookemon service.) Many of the family names will be familiar to longtime residents.
Reprints of "Chew Chew: Favorite Recipes from Columbus, Miss." may be ordered at bookemon.com/book-profile/chew-chew/784339. Or go to bookemon.com and enter the book title in the search bar. The cookbook is available in soft cover ($22.66) and hardcover ($29.59).