Settlement Cook Book

The first edition of The Settlement Cook Book was published on April 1, 1901 with an original printing of 1,000 copies. Copies not distributed to the settlement’s cooking school students were sold at the Boston Store in Milwaukee for 50 cents each and sold out within the first year.

a page from the settlement house cookbook where Lizzie Kander has written notes to herself on a recipe
Kander made notes on the recipe for Mocha Torte in order to include changes in future editions of the cook book. Image courtesy of Milwaukee County Historical Society.

The first edition was a 174-page rough draft. No table of contents at the beginning of the volume provided organization for the book’s two sections—500 heirloom recipes collected from old family cookbooks and the 24 lessons from the Settlement’s cooking classes.

Cookbooks at the time used “pinches of this” and “dashes of that” as measurements in their recipes. What made The Settlement Cook Book unique was the dedication to scientific management and use of actual measurements. At the cooking school and in home, Lizzie Black Kander and others tested and perfected each recipe. On the pages of Kander’s personal copy of the 1901 cookbook, she cut recipes, added new ones, and made changes to existing menus. She tweaked measurements, clarified instructions, and made revisions for inclusion in the second edition.

1,500 copies of the 182-page second edition were ordered and published by Yewdale & Sons on September 10, 1903. With the second edition, Kander made many changes that became permanent to the cookbook. Major changes that became the new standard included an index at the beginning of the book as well as a making chapter one “Rules for Household.” Recipes from the margins of her personal copy of the first edition became the new norm in the second edition and onward.

The title page of the cookbook showing a portrait of Lizzie Kander
After her passing in 1940, subsequent editions of The Settlement Cook Book included an image honoring Lizzie Black Kander on the inside cover. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Public Library.

In 1907, the third edition expanded in size, volume, and price, selling 5,000 copies of the 391-page book for $1. Following the success of the third edition, Kander maintained much of the content into the later editions. Due to its financial success, the 3rd edition allowed for the inclusion of in-chapter pictures. Kander personally edited each subsequent edition of the cookbook until her death in 1940; all following editions honored her with a remembrance photograph with the caption “Very truly yours Mrs. Simon Kander.”

While the cooking classes at the Settlement observed kosher practices to attract and educate the recently emigrated Eastern European Jews, the cookbook was not kosher. Cooking classes at the Settlement needed to observe kosher practices to attract these Orthodox students, whereas The Settlement Cook Book was intended for a larger audience. Over the years, the Settlement Cook Book Board periodically received requests for specific recipes to be included in later editions of the cookbook, but according to Kander there was never a “cry” for a “Kosher textbook.”

In a 1933 radio interview, Kander was asked why she thought the cookbook had become so universally popular. Kander replied, “Because The Settlement Cook Book is primarily a home cook book. The recipes are tested in a home kitchen. They are practical, economical, and reliable. The directions are given in simple language and are easy to follow. Because of America’s cosmopolitan population, the dishes of all nationalities have been included.”

Listen below to the Settlement Cookbook’s segment on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Wisconsin Life.


Written by Elizabeth Matelski

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Themes in Wisconsin History

Special thanks to Ellie Gettinger and Michael Dettlaff.

Object history courtesy of Jewish Museum Milwaukee in partnership with the Milwaukee Public Library and the Milwaukee County Historical Society.

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Object history created May 2017.