Looking for Cooking Inspiration? Consult the Lakeside Cookbook

On the tenth floor of the Central Library in downtown Seattle sits the appointment-only Seattle Room. Within its brightly-lit archive shelves, alongside local atlases and neighborhood maps are two cookbooks, one maroon and one gold: “The Lakeside School Parents’ Club Cookbook.” These books, the gold volume from 1974 and the maroon from 1984, contain student illustrations and hundreds of eclectic recipes collected from Lakeside parents of the time. 

The 1974 Lakeside cookbook first came about as a fundraising idea for the Mothers’ Club, the equivalent of the PGA at the time. The process of soliciting and editing recipes, recruiting student artists to do illustrations, designing and printing the book took around nine months. While mostly intended for the Lakeside community, it was also sold in some local bookstores and cost $6.60. The 1984 cookbook cost $11.95, could be shipped anywhere in the country for $2, and sold around 1,000 copies. Nowadays, it has found its way to Amazon and Etsy secondhand shops on sale as a “rare find” vintage item.

One Lakeside community member who contributed recipes to the cookbook is Judy Bauer, who worked at Lakeside from 1963 to 1967 as the school nurse alongside her husband Dale, who taught math and photography. After the couple had kids, Judy stayed home to look after them but remained involved at Lakeside, working in the annual rummage sale, for example.

As Judy and Dale lived on 4th Ave NE — what she calls “faculty row” — near Lakeside, they frequently gathered with other teachers to play bridge and would experiment with cooking different appetizers to eat while they played. When the request came to submit recipes for the cookbook, Judy submitted some of her favorite recipes that she had tested at bridge nights, like her sweet and sour meatballs.

Many recipes included in the cookbook had similar personal stories. Reading the introductions of the cookbooks gives a sense of the importance of food for the Lakeside community. Some recipes were used to make food for rummage sale volunteers or sports team banquets. And in the opening to the 1984 cookbook, Head of School Dan Ayrault recalled how the Lakeside community stepped up to cook dinners for him and his family when his wife underwent brain surgery.

To a modern eye, many aspects of the cookbooks seem particularly reflective of the times they were created in, and changes between the two editions also follow shifting societal trends. In the 1974 cookbook, for example, women in the recipe credits are referred to as Mrs. and their husband’s name. “It seemed normal at the time,” Judy explained. She paused, then added, “Looking back, it must seem kind of strange to someone like you, thinking ‘What were they doing?’” By the publication of the 1984 cookbook, the Mothers’ Club had been renamed the Parents’ Club to be more inclusive, and the decision was made to refer to all cookbook contributors by their chosen names.

The recipes themselves also reveal the prevailing food trends of each decade. Many of the meat recipes in the 1974 cookbook feature pineapple, which was especially popular at the time because of widespread interest in Hawaiian culture. Of course, it also wouldn’t be the 70s without copious amounts of jello even in some non-dessert recipes.

Reflecting a nationwide trend to avoid fat, in the 1984 cookbook, many recipes are labeled as “diet,” “low-cal,” or “low-fat,” or say things like “calorie watchers should avoid!” In addition, the use of MSG in the recipes was more common than it is today, as was the use of vegetable shortening in place of butter.

Judy also notices a heavy use of pre-made foods, like canned spaghetti sauce, in both cookbooks. She notes that the scarcity of time meant that making food from scratch and experimenting with new recipes were a luxury and remembers thinking, “When I retire, I want to work longer at preparing some meals that I used to shortcut a little bit.”

Reading the cookbooks and observing these trends, one wonders what a current-day Lakeside PGA Cookbook would look like. Clearly, terminology would change to reflect modern standards — doing away with words like “oriental,” for example. While both cookbooks feature recipes from other cultures (with many authors discovering new flavors on vacation), “mainstream” American cooking is what prevails. As Lakeside has become much more culturally and ethnically diverse in the 40 years since the publication of the 1984 cookbook, a modern collection of recipes should reflect that diversity.

However, that’s not to say that the existing cookbooks aren’t fascinating and valuable in their own right. I, for one, discovered several new recipes that I plan to try, like Judy’s sweet and sour meatballs and recipes for Icelandic skyr and rhubarb bread.

Judy, too, plans to revisit recipes she’s collected over the decades, which she always annotated with the origin of the recipe and when she first made it. “It’s always fun to look back and think, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve been making this recipe since 1963,’ and it brings back memories of who I might have known at the time.” 

There’s an adage that food isn’t just sustenance, but also feeds the soul and brings people together. From school lunches to tailgate barbeques, it’s safe to say that food is a uniting force on the Lakeside campus. The cookbooks just made that more visible.