Twentieth Century Club is adapting historic recipes to today’s culture.
When women set their minds to something, they can be a formidable force. Case in point: the Twentieth Century Club, charactered in 1894 by 25 Reno women. Still active, the oldest women’s club in the state celebrates its 125th anniversary in May.
Its projects during the turn of the 20th century are impressive. It established a circulating library, founded the first free kindergarten in The Biggest Little City, and funded a scholarship for nursing students at the University of Nevada (as it was called then).
That’s not all.
In 1925, the group built a clubhouse, a maroon brick building at 335 W. First St., which now is on the National Register of Historic Places. Before it was sold in 1980, it was the social hub of Reno, where local and national figures, such as suffragette Susan B. Anthony and cowboy writer and artist Will James, gave lectures.
The club’s philanthropic and civic goals still are in place and expanding.
“It starts back in our club’s roots with the first scholarship in 1898,” says Kimberly Elliott, membership chairperson.
Entering a new era
For women’s clubs in the era before online recipe sites were born, publishing a cookbook as a fundraiser was a natural. Reno’s club published four Twentieth Century Club cookbooks — the first in 1907, followed by editions in 1934, 1964, and 1994. And now, in the 21st century, a project is percolating to coalesce the four cookbooks in digital form.
“Besides recipes, the cookbooks hold the history of Reno and the people who lived here within their pages,” says Elliot, the project’s leader. “We are trying to decide the best way to present it or restore it for a new generation.”
Elliott and her co-editor, Tatjana Vukovic, are tackling the issue of how to adapt 19th and 20th century recipes to the 21st century cook. The task includes revising older recipes loaded with butter, cream, and sugar to be healthier and finding substitutes for ingredients that are no longer available. They also plan to include the etiquette of early 20th century dining, such as how to set a table, fold napkins, and arrange flowers.
“It’s part of our history,” Vukovic says. “Dining used to be proper. We’d like to give the culture behind a dinner, not just the cooking, and incorporate it into today’s world.”
The goal to debut the new cookbook online is this fall. Ambitious? Yes — but a formidable force is with them.
Sandra Macias, a longtime Reno food writer, attended a recent Twentieth Century Club luncheon where the topic of sex trafficking was addressed. The keynote speaker was Kasia Klaus, program director of Awaken, a local organization that helps women and children caught in the system. The luncheon ended with the club presenting Awaken with a charity donation. The club may be 125 years old, but it is nothing if not current.