Copies of The Pantry Cookbook, some more than 50 years old, are treasured as the source of wonderful, enduring recipes of Port Washington families
The most beloved and used community cookbook has to be The Pantry Cookbook, originally compiled and printed in 1967 to raise money for the new St. Peter of Alcantara Catholic Parish in Port Washington.
It was reprinted numerous times by Port Publications Inc.
Copies that are often held together with rubber bands have been passed down from generation to generation. It’s used almost every day by some people and really shines during the holidays, when tried-and-true recipes are a must for everything from appetizers and Christmas cookies to main entrees.
“It’s my favorite cookbook. I’ve worn one out — it’s held together with yarn and twine,” said Town of Port Washington resident Agnes
Arendt, who has 10 children, 25 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
“I’ve found a couple of The Pantry cookbooks at rummage sales and pick them up for 50 cents or $1. People don’t realize what a treasure they’re selling.”
Over the years, three favorite recipes from the cookbook have emerged that must be on the table at every Arendt family gathering — a cream cheese torte with cherry or blueberry topping that Arendt makes, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting made by eldest daughter Denise Tappa and a layered gelatin salad that someone volunteers to make.
“The cheese torte recipe was submitted by four women, including my mother, so I figured it had to be good,” Arendt said. “I make it for our Christmas party and throughout the holidays.”
The children live within 30 miles of Arendt and her husband Allan, so family gatherings are large. Most recipes are doubled.
The cream cheese torte is made in a double-size cake pan. Arendt had two large pans, but gave one to Tappa when she got married. She uses it for the carrot cake and has dibs on the other one.
“I told Mom I want the other one and she should put it in her will that it goes to me. I call it the will cake pan,” said Tappa, who lives in Port Washington.
The family celebrates birthdays twice a year — birthdays in January through June are celebrated July 4 and those in July through December are celebrated during the holidays.
“We add up the ages, and that’s the candle number we put on the carrot cake. It has to be Denise’s carrot cake,” Arendt said.
Their family camps out on the farm in tents and campers at least four times during the summer, Arendt said. Some people stay for a week and some for a night. They go four-wheeling, play a variety of games and have campfires every night.
“Everybody brings something to eat, and that’s when The Pantry Cookbooks come out,” Arendt said.
Arendt has numerous other cookbooks, but its The Pantry Cookbook that she turns to most often. “I recognize most of the people who donated the recipes. Sometimes, because of them, I try a recipe and I’m happy with it,” she said. “It’s almost like a family recipe book, because they’re all people I see in church. Some of these recipes, I don’t need the cookbook for anymore.
“The married women used their husband’s names. That was just the thing to do then. The husbands were the heads of the family.”
Arendt submitted several recipes under her husband Allan’s name. She is an Arendt who married an Arendt.
Her mother Alice Arendt, identified as Mrs. Alex Arendt in the cookbook, not only submitted recipes, but also wrote more recipes on blank pages in her book and made notes next to her favorite recipes.
“When my mother passed away, I got her cookbooks,” Arendt said. “This one is special. This is the handwriting of Grandma Arendt, and it’s to be passed down.”
Tappa said her 1967 cookbook is held together with rubber bands.
“It’s all in pieces. There’s no rhyme and reason to it. I just know where the best recipes are,” she said. “I made multiple copies of the carrot cake recipe years ago so I wouldn’t lose it.
“My kids’ favorite recipe was porcupine meatballs and, of course, all the cookies and sweet stuff.”
Arendt and her daughter said when they need a recipe for something, the first place they look is The Pantry Cookbook.
“Somebody asked me if I would make a poppyseed torte for his father’s 80th birthday,” Tappa said. “I never made a poppyseed torte before.
“I pulled out The Pantry Cookbook and found a recipe. His dad loved it.”
Turn to the recipe page to find favorite recipes from The Pantry Cookbook.
Image Information: Agnes Arendt (right) held The Pantry Cookbook, while her daughter Denise Tappa held a layered gelatin salad made from a recipe in the book. Photo by Sam Arendt