Rivertown Recipes


Shop Notes:

This is a bit long, but in doing some research for this cookbook, I went down a research rabbit hole.

Rivertown Recipes was published in 1976 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of The Kennedy Book Club, a community group that raised funds for local projects in the Whitehaven area outside of Memphis, TN.

The Kennedy Book Club began as part of what would later be known as the women's study club movement.  These clubs were intended to raise the educational and cultural aspirations of women through book readership and discussion, skills development, and general cultural programming.  What is particularly interesting about the Kennedy Book Club is that they met for a little over a century and their documents and publications parallel not only the modernization of Memphis, TN, but also multiple waves of the women's movement in America.

When the group started in 1902, Whitehaven was comprised of about twenty homes and a train station, but then quickly grew into an upper-class enclave in the 1940s and 1950s, and then exploded after Memphis forcefully annexed the area into the larger city in the 1960s.  Elvis Presley's Graceland is still located in the Whitehaven community today (at the time, Graceland was one of the larger mansions in the tony neighborhood).  The Kennedy Book Club witnessed this evolution, at the same time becoming a philanthropic powerhouse in the community, with well over 100 members. 

In the 1950s, the club turned its efforts to more localized community projects, coordinating aid to needy local families and local beautification projects. Projects benefitted public libraries and book collections, schools, the YMCA, food pantries, and notably, the Bethany Maternity Home.  Founded in 1916, Bethany Maternity Home was an example of an often controversial, but locally well-supported, social program where pregnant and unwed mothers (known at the time as "fallen women") could find housing, living support, adoption services, and job placement and training. 

Sales from Rivertown Recipes almost certainly supported the operational and programmatic expenses for this refuge for homeless women - and a factory the home later established to allow the residents to manufacture and sell kitchen aprons to local stores.  The Kennedy Book Club donated some of these aprons along with copies of Rivertown Recipes to the Memphis/Shelby County Public Library as part of a historical collection in 2002, as the group often included the aprons in their annual Christmas Bazaar sales.  Club financial reports indicated that approximately 8,000 copies of Rivertown Recipes were sold, but few additional details were recorded regarding the making of the cookbook or its contents.  

The ingredients and methods in Rivertown Recipes are classic mid-1970s cuisine, but with less use of canned and processed soups (looking at you Cream of Mushroom and Cream of Chicken).  There are still some surprises to be found for culinary historians and folks who find vintage Jello salads fascinating.

Release Date: 1976

Condition: Very good, slight markings on front and back covers, inscribed by previous owner.