Tuesday, January 18, 2022

An Army Wife's Recipes and Hints

 With Nancy J. Farrier


I have a copy of an old army wife’s cookbook. There are many recipes, some household hints, and some home remedies. This cookbook, printed in 1972, came from a loose-bound book penned by Army wife, Alice Kirk Grierson. In the cookbook, the recipes have been modernized some to make them adaptable to today’s culture and foods. I’d like to look at some of the terms and ways of cooking shown by the notes done by Alice Grierson. I hope you find this as fascinating as I do.


About the author
: Alice Kirk Greirson came from a well-to-do family. She didn’t have to struggle as an army wife, but often waited to join her husband at a new post until the servants had done the moving and setting up for her. Her husband, Ben, joined the regular army in 1866 at the rank of Colonel. Alice followed him from post to post until 1888 when she died.


RUSK: Rusk today is described as a hard bread, similar to the bread you might find in an Italian restaurant where you would soak it in a balsamic vinaigrette before consuming. In this cookbook, the rusk is more of a sweet bread that can be altered to your specification with spices and fruit, such as raisins. 


Photo by Barthateslisa, Wikimedia Commons


1 C. Sugar

2 Eggs

Butter, the size of 2 eggs

2 C. Milk

6 C. Flour

6 tsp. Baking Powder




Bake at once. Makes 2 loaves.


As you can see, this is a bare bones recipe and could be adjusted according to taste. I love that the butter is the size of 2 eggs.


Photo by Diana Kuleniuk on Unsplash
Another interesting recipe with unusual measurements is the one for coconut cookies.

2 Eggs

3 Teacups white sugar

1 Teacup Butter

1 Teacup Sour Cream

1 Scant tsp Soda

5 Teacups Flour

1 Large Coconut, grated

Roll in sugar and drop on the pans. Add nuts last.


My hands hurt at the thought of grating a whole coconut. Using teacups to measure is interesting. Were all teacups the same size then? How did the recipe change if you used bigger teacups?


There is a fascinating story included about an army wife who invited a family of seventeen over for dinner. This included their children. The wife was just putting finishing touches on the meal and the family was at the doorway to the dining room when the ceiling overhead broke and fell on the wife and the table. The dishes were filled with plaster and the wife covered in plaster and dust. She was okay and the family returned to the other room while she cleaned up, cooked another meal, and served them all. 


Household Hints and Remedies


Looking at the past and how they made items for their household and what remedies they used is always interesting. Today, we can go to the store and find hair dye in multiple colors. In this book is a recipe for hair dye that is so different from what we have today. And, I believe, a bit dangerous to use.


Hair Dye

½ Drachma Sugar of Lead

1 Drachma Lac Sulphur

2 Ounces Glycerine

2 Ounces Rose Water

1 Ounce Bay Rum

Put the sugar of lead and Sulphur in a pint of boiling rain water. Let stand until cold. Add remaining ingredients after a thorough mixing of the glycerine with the rose water and rum. 


Photo by Dan Renco on Unsplash

How to Remove Dirt from the Eye

Take a hog’s bristle, double so as to form a loop. Lift the eyelid and gently insert the loop over the eyeball, which will cause a disagreeable feeling. Now close the lid down upon the bristle, which may now be withdrawn. The dirt will surely be on the bristle.



There are many more gems in this small cookbook. Every time I pull it from the shelves to scan through, I find another fascinating bit from the past. I often wonder how they shared these bits of wisdom for the time and where they found these ingredients. Were they easily found at the mercantile? Did the army wives get together to share recipes and remedies? 


This is a fascinating time. Do you have any old recipes or hints passed down through your family? I would love to hear about them.


Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.




  1. Thanks for posting. This is fascinating. I love when cookbooks come with anecdotes that you can read. That poor wife who had the ceiling collapse on her, I can't believe no one came to her aid!!! And I'm sorry but NO WAY is anyone looping a pig hair over my eyeball!!! And all that is said is that it causes a disagreeable feeling!!! But yes, having dirt or something in your eye is disagreeable as well.

  2. I love these sorts of books too. The army wife should have sent her guests away and asked husband for help. But a woman's kitchen was her domain and apparently she choose to be a hero. Then again overtime the part about her cooking another meal may have been added. I've been hit by falling plaster and it is painful not to mention all the plaster dust on everything in the kitchen. Thanks for sharing Nancy.

  3. Thanks for sharing. As for making the RUSK, that's a lot of butter...LOL

  4. I also have a copy of this cookbook. The Griersons were stationed at Ft. Davis in west Texas in the 1880s. I have been to that fort many times. We would go quite often when I was growing up.