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Community: Cookbook’s special ingredient is history

Susan Hodgson is the editor and illustrator of the new "Burbank Historical Cookbook" that will be unveiled during a release party and taste off at 2 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Burbank Museum.
Susan Hodgson is the editor and illustrator of the new “Burbank Historical Cookbook” that will be unveiled during a release party and taste off at 2 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Burbank Museum.
(Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

The Burbank Historical Society has cooked up a fundraiser that should please the palate and shed light on the city’s past.

Author Susan Hodgson has compiled recipes and stories contributed by her fellow society board members and local residents to create the “Burbank Historical Cookbook” to be unveiled at a taste-off beginning at 2 p.m. on Feb. 7 at the Burbank Historical Museum.

Increased responsibilities at her job caused Dianna Briggs to pass the editing reins to Hodgson last year. Hodgson researched and wrote about historical facts in addition to editing recipes and illustrating many with drawings of board members who contributed them.

Hodgson has a master’s degree in organizational development. She is retired after serving more than 30 years in the human resources field. Throughout her career, she drew cartoon illustrations of people for instructional PowerPoint presentations on management, safety, employee orientations and pension plans.

“The cartoons were funny and that made the presentations more fun, so people liked to come to the classes,” she said.

As far back as she can remember Hodgson has liked to draw. It’s in her genes. Her father drew figure sketches and her sister, an art prodigy, paints in realistic style.

This isn’t the first collection of recipes Hodgson has assembled. She published a family cookbook 10 years ago that featured stories, cartoons and recipes. All the text was handwritten. She infused some bawdy humor into it, whereas with the historical society’s project, she said she had to keep the humor “safe.”

When Hodgson took over the project, Briggs had already gone through the museum’s archives and found cookbooks created by Burbank PTAs, churches and libraries as well as recipes printed in local organizations’ newsletters.

One of the oldest cookbooks found dates back to 1917 and was made by women of the Burbank Presbyterian Church to raise funds to support men fighting in World War I.

Each chapter of the Burbank Historical Cookbook represents an era in history, Hodgson said. One of the illustrations she drew was for the chapter covering the 1950s. A woman is holding a dish of food and the speech bubble above her head reads “This is for the Beave” referring to the character Beaver Cleaver from the 1950s TV sitcom “Leave It to Beaver.”

“I wrote a little history on each era, researching such subjects as who was president, who was California governor and the Burbank mayor, and trivia, like the most popular books and movies and what a car cost,” she said. “It was fun researching these things.”

Hodgson also drew a picture of museum founder Mary Jane Strickland to accompany her Tamale Pie recipe. Strickland had changed the recipe to make it easier, and the family liked hers better, Hodgson said.

“So I drew her as if she was celebrating that achievement,” she said.

Hodgson’s favorite recipe is “Heavenly Hamburger Hash.” It’s made with ground beef, wide noodles, cream cheese and green onions. It was suggested by Strickland’s daughter, Penny Rivera. It was a recipe from Jo Bailey, who worked with Strickland at the Burbank Public Library.

“I served it on Christmas Day as well as Bailey’s crab fondue,” Hodgson said. “They are both delicious. My mother is a true gourmet chef and even she loved it.”

The Burbank Historical Cookbook costs $10, and proceeds will go to purchase display cases and the restoration of items donated for new exhibits, said Sue Baldaseroni, the society’s president.

“I’m not going to give away any information on the new displays,” she said. “People will just have to come in and find out for themselves.”

Board members will prepare dishes from the recipes in the book for the taste-off, including Baldaseroni’s husband, Don, who is bringing his spicy jalapeño peppers filled with chicken salad. There will be lots of food for people to taste and plenty of cookbooks to buy, she added.

“The cookbook is more of a history of recipes,” Sue Baldaseroni said. “Susan spent a lot of time researching different eras and included a lot of history, starting with 1887, and the food that was included in their diets. Believe me, some of it was not that appetizing.”

The society president submitted a recipe for divinity candy that was passed down from her grandmother. It was brought to a family Christmas party when Sue Baldaseroni was only 3 years old.

“According to my Mother, Grandma gave me a piece of the candy and proceeded to tell me a story that one night she heard noises in her kitchen and when she got up to go and check to find out what the noises were, she found two of Santa’s little helpers making candy in her kitchen.”

Sue’s grandma asked what they were doing in her house, and the elf in charge told her Santa sent them over to make candy for her little granddaughter.

“So from that moment on, every Christmas, the elves came over to my Grandma’s house to make the candy I love,” she said. “Of course, every year I would leave some of the candy and coffee for Santa Claus instead of cookies and milk. Yes, I still believe in Santa, and always will.”

The cookbook release party is open to the public. The Burbank museum is next door to the Creative Arts Center in George Izay Park, 1109 Olive Ave. Parking is available in the lot on Clark Avenue.

For more information, call (818) 841-6333 or visit burbankhistoricalsoc.com.

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JOYCE RUDOLPH can be contacted at rudolphjoyce10@gmail.com.


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