Salme Masso, widow, homemaker, mother, teacher and home economist published over 30 books throughout her career. Most Estonians either in Estonia or abroad own at least one of her cookbooks. Masso’s first book entitled Kodu korrashoid (Home Maintenance) was published in 1935. Her writing career was then put on hold with the start of the Second World War and the sudden death of her husband in 1948. She moved to Tallinn to continue her education in home economics and began a career as a teacher .
The late 1950s, referred to as the Khrushchev Thaw renewed interest in home economics, which had since the start of the war been repressed. Women’s magazines began publishing articles on home management and cooking, many of which Masso was commissioned to write. Her writing career had been revived. She went on to publish over 30 cookbooks and household management guides, many of which were used in schools.
For a home economist whose writing career fell into a period of great repression, censorship and scarcity, it is interesting to look at what she was allowed to publish. The post-war Estonian diet was relatively uneventful. Private restaurants had been banned and all cafeterias and eateries were nationally owed. All recipes and cookbook content had to be approved in Moscow. Often these recipes would either leave out significant ingredients or include ingredients that were difficult to come by, rendering a cookbook more a work of fiction than a practical guide.
Salme Masso’s 1975 cookbook Rahvaste toite (People’s Food) explores recipes from around the world, covering international cuisine from countries such as Japan, Canada and Australia. The author states in the foreward that the recipes have been “revised to suit Estonia’s palate.”
For example, the recipe for Röstitud kala või liha or teriyaki as Masso translates, asks the following ingredients for the marinade:
4 tbs. unspecified flavouring, soy sauce perhaps
4 tbs. dessert wine
4 tbs. dry white wine
optional 1 clove of garlic
The wide selection of recipes in the American and Canadian chapters are an interesting look into a certain period of North American culinary history. In the American food chapter, while the introduction discusses the popularity of hamburgers, a recipe is not included. Instead the chapter contains recipes for:
Cheese sandwiches with oranges or Hawaiian sandwiches
Summertime Melon Bowl
California Slaw (cabbage, orange, mayonnaise, walnuts)
Cabbage Salad with boiled dressing
Marinated Fish ( white vinegar, pepper, chili pepper, onion)
“Fat Fish Soup” or Cioppino
Tomato Sauce (to be served with meat, fish and eggs)
White Sauce (Béchamel)
Aztec Baked Beans
Deep-fried Cheese Balls
Eggs on Noodle Casserole
Porcupine (Baked Apples)
Banana Steaks (Fried Bananas)
Pennsylvania Cracker Pudding
Milk and Honey Baked Custard
Poppy Seed Cake
Masso refers to a bibliography for further reading and perhaps the sources for the some or all of the recipes in the book. The American bibliography includes:
America’s Cook Book. New York, 1937.
Consumers All. the Yearbook of Agriculture. Washington. 1965.
Food. The Yearbook of Agriculture. Washington, 1959.
Herman, B. and Z. Taylor. A Time for Cooking. USA. 1963
Hughes, O. Introductory Foods. New York, 1962.
Krause, M.V. Food, Nutrition and Diet Therapy. Philadelphia, 1963.
Proft, S. The Master Chef’s Outdoor Grill Cookbook. Chicago, 1960.
Stevenson, G. and C. Miller. Foods and Nutrition. New York, 1960.
Vail, G.E. Foods. Boston, 1967.
The American bibliography is probably the most extensive of the sources with Canadian cookbooks, mostly French Canadian following closely behind.