In my post yesterday about a long-forgotten print-and-radio cooking guru I promised to share the FOREWORD of the 1935 cookbook Ida Bailey Allen's Modern Cookbook 2500 recipes. Her book foreword is a tender glimpse into that era, as reported by a woman who was an impressive trailblazer speaking with authority to a large, loyal fan base. Her cookbook is a kaleidescope of the views and tastes of another time, and I will share more of Ida Bailey Allen's recipes and poems in the future.
F O R E W O R D
IT IS more than twenty years since my first article on food and cookery was published in the "Ladies' Home Journal," and more than fifteen years since I was cookery editor of "Good Housekeeping Magazine." It seems but a flash of time since I talked to half a million home-makers during the war, and the day of my first radio talk is as close as though it were last week.
A very trying day it was, too, for radio was an unknown, to me, almost a fearsome thing. Up to 1923 I had not paid any attention to it, and the little I had heard about it sounded preposterous. Although it seemed wonderful, the results were generally so poor that I felt it was nothing more or less than a fad.
Finally, in 1923, while I was lecturing in St. Louis, one of the editors of the "St. Louis Post Dispatch" asked me if I would give a talk over their radio station. The speaker who preceded me was one well known indeed to these United States--Mr. Davies--the tree man. He went to the ordeal --I felt, almost, to the slaughter--after I got there; and he emerged fifteen minutes later with his once stiffly starched collar wilted to a string. He confessed he had never been so scared since he walked up the aisle to be married--all of which did not bolster up my courage.
When I went into the tiny, heavily swathed broadcasting room with absolutely no ventilation, I understood how Mr. Davies' collar had got that way. But I stayed there and talked before a horn-like thing that they called a microphone, apparently speaking into nothingness.
I haven't an idea what I said, except that I remember speaking about some very beautiful violets sold on the street-corners of St. Louis, the most fragrant I have ever seen--or should I say smelled?
Soon the event was over, all except the aftermath, some fifteen hundred letters coming from the area bounded by St. Louis and the Gulf of Mexico. Even then broadcasting didn't seem real to me, and those letters appeared to me like parasites on the air.
The next week I went to Kansas City to give a series of lectures, and a broadcasting station there asked permission to put a microphone on the stage. This microphone was a sort of swinging horn and worked admirably when I remembered to stay under it. But, as I had a very bad habit of walking around the stage, the listening audience got my talks literally in installments. Broadcasting at that stage seemed to me to be something that conspired to hold me in one place when I wanted to stroll around.
Then I came back to New York with no broadcasting ambitions. Some two or three years later, I was asked to speak again--on a Christmas program; and I remember suggesting that, in the holiday season, children would adore to have their mothers dressed in gay frocks, and I declared that every woman who could, should have a red Christmas dress. The letters poured in from everywhere, and red dresses bloomed like roses.
But still the microphone seemed stiff and unfamiliar and I couldn't get any connection between it, myself, and the listeners. One by one, the large radio stations around New York City invited me as a guest-speaker. Every time I possibly could I slid out of the engagement. The very thought of a microphone seemed almost to freeze my soul.
Finally I was asked to broadcast regularly. I decided to try to use this new medium for finding out what women really wanted. I would give to them over the air the things that, on lecture tours, I had heard them declare they wanted to hear. I would alk them to write me their frank opinions; in other words, I would test radio and the women themselves.
Within four weeks after I started, the response had become so great I decided to form a radio club--the National Radio Home-Makers Club, to be exact. On the hottest day in July, I asked as many of the listeners as could to come to the ballroom of the Hotel McAlpin to meet me.
Then and there we organized the National Radio Home-Makers Club, soon afterwards incorporated with as broad a charter as ever granted to any organization within my knowledge.
A little later, requests for the broadcasts began to come from nearly every state in the Union and I decided to produce the programs with a coast to coast range.
Since then the programs of the National Radio Home-Makers Club have grown from one to as many as thirty-four per week. We have expanded from a staff of four people to a group of sixty-eight. Visitors number thousands a year, and a half million letters have poured in.
But the principle on which the National Radio Home-Makers Club was founded remains the same. The Club exists by the requests and the desires of the listeners-in. Today the thousands of letters receive just as careful attention as the hundreds got in the days when the club began.
And there is many an evening when I stay here all by myself, read the letters and dream of the home-makers who listen in. They still determine our policy. To them I really dedicate this book, which presents up-to-the-minute advice on the problems they've mentioned.