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Vernon history: The Hilltop Housewife and her cookbook

Hazel’s wood cook stove from her Basin Farm kitchen. The stove is displayed at the Vernon Historians Museum.

By Sallie J. May, for The Vernon Historians

Hazel B. Corliss lived at Basin Farm for 26 years earlier in the 20th century, and for over 12 years, she wrote a column for the Greenfield Recorder daily newspaper entitled “Hilltop Housewife.” People from all over would send her recipes which she tried and used herself, as well as publishing them in her weekly column. She is reported to have said that she only used those recipes that she would try or be willing to try herself. Finally, in 1972, at the urging of family members and those folks who followed her column in the newspaper, she did write a cookbook entitled “Hilltop Housewife Cookbook,” interspersed with good recipes, plain and nourishing, along with tidbits of information about her family and the farm life she led,  nutrition and cooking hints that she learned from the time she was a young girl. 

I came across this cookbook at the Vernon Historians Museum in the South School several years ago. From time to time I would spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon reading through it, enjoying the advice she gave. Imagine my happiness when I discovered a copy of this cookbook at a tag sale, and grabbed it up. It was clean, little used, and bore a note that it was a Christmas gift purchased at the Bayberry Shop in Northfield in 1986, along with a note which stated that Hazel at that time was deceased. 

The Historians have decided not to open this summer on Sundays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the complexity and ever-changing “guidelines for safe reopening” that we get on a daily basis. We are very hopeful that by next summer we will once again be able to reopen and when we do, if you enjoy cooking, I would invite you to drop by in 2021, any Sunday afternoon during June, July, August and September and read about the hilltop housewife and her plain but nourishing recipes. You might really enjoy it.