In 2010, within the span of three months, three different people gave Gil Peltola stained and spotted copies of a 1947 cookbook called “Cooking to Beat the Band.” One had come from a yard sale, one from cleaning house, and one from a Medford, Massachusetts, woman who had participated in an exchange concert with the Deering High School marching band in 1948.

They were thoughtful gifts, considering that the old cookbook had been a fundraiser for the Deering High School band, put together by the “Band Mothers Club,” and Peltola is the current music director at the school.

“They just thought I would like to have it,” Peltola said, “but by the time I got the third one, I started to think that somebody’s trying to tell me something here, that I probably need to try to do something with this.”

Peltola, with the help of two seniors who are also band members, started working on a new, expanded edition of the cookbook to raise money for the music department. The spiral-bound, revised edition, which sells for $15, has a purple cover in homage to the school colors (purple and white) and contains about 200 vintage recipes, heavy on cakes, cookies and desserts. Whimsical illustrations by a teenage girl who would now be in her 80s are sprinkled through the pages. In the back are 35 pages of modern-day recipes from parents, teachers and friends of the band – including numerous marinades from Peltola, who loves to grill outdoors.

Natalie Veilleux, a member of the band, chorus, jazz band and hand bell choir, launched the project before she graduated last year. This year it was picked up by senior Sophia Morin, a member of the chorus and hand bell choir. Last week, Peltola and Morin met in the Morins’ newly renovated kitchen to make one of the classic recipes from the book – porcupine meatballs, a Depression-era recipe that uses rice to stretch the family meat supply. The rice is mixed into the meatballs and cooked in tomato soup and hot water, and as the rice cooks and expands, it pokes out of the meatball like porcupine quills.

As Morin mixed the meat and rice, and Peltola chopped celery and onion to add to the meatballs, Morin described the challenge of tracking down all the old advertisers – the ones who still exist, anyway – so she could ask them to advertise again in the new edition. Most have gone out of business, but the ones that were still around, she said, wanted to re-run their vintage ads. The ad for Oakhurst Dairy, for example, ran on page 130 of the original cookbook, just beneath a recipe for Lobster Stew, and says “We suggest that you use Oakhurst rich milk & cream in the above recipe.” In the back of the book, where the modern recipes are printed, it runs below a recipe for cornbread. An old ad for B&M Baked Beans includes a drawing of Portland Head Light and a photo of an 18-ounce glass jar of baked beans.


Other 1947 advertisers still in business today are Vose-Smith Florist – whose original ad reads “A good cook deserves the finest/Send her flowers from Vose-Smith Co.” – and Roy’s Shoe Shop on Stevens Ave.

Vintage recipes in the book were illustrated by a teenage girl who would now be in her 80s. They appear in the updated version, which also contains 35 pages of modern-day recipes from parents, teachers and friends of the band.

Vintage recipes in the book were illustrated by a teenage girl who would now be in her 80s. They appear in the updated version, which also contains 35 pages of modern-day recipes from parents, teachers and friends of the band.

Peltola and his students have been so busy re-creating the cookbook they haven’t had much of a chance to actually cook from it. They have their eye on many of the old desserts, though, including the Vermont Maple Cake with Maple Syrup Frosting. They chose the Porcupine Meatballs as a demonstration recipe because it was contributed by Esther Huff, one of the women who worked on the original book with Ethel Pettengill, president of the Band Mothers. The two women wanted to use the book to raise money to pay for new marching band outfits.

Peltola said many of the recipes are very like those his mother used to make. “I hope people realize that even though the recipes are 1947, they are still very viable and very good recipes,” he said.

There are classics like Swiss Steak, Lobster Newburg, Potato Pancakes, Salmon Croquettes and Tuna Fish Casserole (made with the obligatory can of mushroom soup and topped with potato chips). Green Tomato Mince Meat sounds interesting, too. And the book is also full of delicious-sounding cakes, cookies and other desserts.

But other entries might give younger generations a stomachache just looking at them. Some call for canned meats and seafood. And oh, the things they jellied in 1947. Jellied Tomato Salad, inexplicably made with both strawberry Jell-O and tomato juice, got its kick from horseradish and onion. Jellied Beet Salad required lemon gelatin, beet juice and canned beets. And then there’s the Jellied Meat Salad contributed by Ethel Pettengill, a shimmering mold of gelatin embedded with canned corned beef or ham, hard-boiled eggs, Miracle Whip and chopped celery, onions and pepper.

The last 35 pages of the cookbook contain the recipes contributed by faculty, staff, students and parents of today. One has to wonder: In another 69 years, will Red Velvet Cupcakes be the Yum Yum Date Roll of 2085?


The 1947 cookbook is written out by hand, most of it by Beverly Pettengill Parsons, who is a member of the class of 1949 and the daughter of Ethel Pettengill. With a little sleuthing, Morin was able to track down Betsy Parsons, Beverly Parsons’ daughter and Pettengill’s granddaughter, who once taught at Deering. “Her mother is still alive,” Morin said. “She said her mother is just so happy (the cookbook) was re-created.”

A page from "Cooking to Beat the Band."

A page from “Cooking to Beat the Band.”

Beverly Parsons is now in her mid-80s and lives in Indiana. Peltola asked her to write an introduction to the new book:

“Long ago high school memories carry me back to gathering around the big dining room table in our Read Street flat and copying my mother’s recipes, among others, while my friend Lois Hunter cleverly created a drawing to accompany. How thankful we are that as our generations delight in the joys of making music, we relish knowing that other parents and loved ones are using this little book and cooking to beat the band.”

Because many of the recipes are written in cursive, Morin wonders whether students of her generation will be able to read it; most students are no longer taught cursive writing. Hunter’s illustrations, on the other hand, are quaint and fun to look at. A Christmas cookie recipe is written within the outlines of a Christmas tree. A queen wearing a crown and ball gown illustrates the Queen Bread Pudding. A little bird sings “Cheerio” next to the English Crumb Pie.

“Look at the picture that goes with this angel food cake,” Peltola said, pointing to a praying angel surrounded by stars. “Isn’t that sweet?”

The introduction to the book notes that the Deering High Band was originally formed in the early 1930s and was made up of 35 “inexperienced students.” The Band Mothers Club was organized in 1936 and raised money for uniforms and instruments so the band could compete in regional competitions. By the time the cookbook was published, the band had grown into a 100-piece unit, including 90 musicians, seven majorettes and a three-person color guard.


Today, according to Peltola, the band is back down to about 30. There hasn’t been a band booster club for years, and Peltola hasn’t done any other fundraising in the 13 years he’s been teaching at the school, but the band has marched along nevertheless.

“Our budget is decent at Deering for the music department,” Peltola said. “I haven’t been able to splurge, but I’ve been able to get certain things that I need to run the program. This is going to help me do some things a little above and beyond.”

That includes buying supplies and taking the kids on a trip to an amusement park sometime next year. Some parks give discounted rates to school music programs that play and sing during their visit, he said.

“I want to try and do something with the kids to make them happy and keep them in the program,” he said.

Peltola ordered 200 copies of the cookbook and so far has reached out only to current and former faculty, staff and students to sell them. They’ll also be for sale at the school’s spring concert May 25, where there will be a special guest. Esther Huff’s son, a 1950 Deering graduate who is now 87 years old, still plays the tuba. He will be in town and has accepted an invitation to play with the band.

The whole project, Morin said, from gathering new recipes to contacting former students, “kind of makes you feel good inside.”

And the porcupine meatballs? They were fine, if woefully underseasoned. Everyone in the kitchen threw out ideas for jazzing them up and bringing them into the 21st century, bridging that 69-year-old generation gap with herbs and spices.


CORRECTION: This story was updated at 3 p.m. on May 18, 2016 to correct that Betsy Parsons, not Beverly Parsons, once taught at Deering.

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