Showcasing My Collection: Old Cookbooks, Volume One

Hey, everyone! In a couple of my past posts, I’ve shown you all some of my enamel pins, which are something I love to collect. Something else I love to collect that you may not have known about is cookbooks! While I do love pretty much any cookbook at all, my truest love is of old ones.

For the past three or four years, every time I go to Goodwill, I look at the books. In the Goodwill book section, you are bound to see a lot of weird and interesting things. From a 2004 Zumba dance guide booklet, to a 1993 dentistry textbook, to a tattered copy of Nora Roberts’ romance novels, amongst all that you’re bound to find at least one cool cookbook.

Over the years I have found some real gems. As much as my mom protests me buying more, I keep bringing home new cool ones that I simply can’t pass up. My oldest one is from 1927, and besides some amazing recipes, it also includes a guide about how best to utilize your new state of the art refrigerator. It doesn’t even have real pictures, just drawings of a nuclear family sitting around a table in their cute little 1920’s style kitchen. My next oldest is from 1954, so there’s definitely a gap in the forties and thirties where I don’t have anything from that era.

Anyways, today I’m going to show you some of my personal favorites that I just picked up on my latest visit!

First up is Fondue On The Menu from 1971:

This very 1970s cookbook boasts the amazingness that is fondue, and says, “it’s easy, convivial, and it allows the hostess to be a partygoer, too.” (catch that 1970s sexism of the book ONLY saying hostess throughout). This book has a whopping 93 pages, starting with cheese fondues, moving into meat and seafood fondues, goes into “special fondues”, and ends with dessert fondues, which they call “a novel idea!”. It even has 8 full-page color photos!

Next up is this lovely 1978 Whirlpool Brand Microwave Cooking Around The Country:

You see that? Over 200 delicious microwave recipes from around the world. How wild is that?! It is important to note that while I do not think any of the food in this book sounds or looks good, I do find it fascinating. I have never seen a worse-looking steak than the one in here they microwaved for 57 minutes. WHO DOES THAT TO A STEAK. The answer? The 1970s.

Will I ever actually utilize these recipes and make a stuffed venison steak with spiced prune sauce in the microwave? No. Is it cool to look at? Yes.

Third on the list is something a little sweeter. This 1966 Pies and Cakes cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens:

The first sentence in the introduction? “A man’s first choice for dessert? Pie! That’s why one of the first baking ventures of a bride is likely to be pie.” Thank you, Better Homes and Gardens, gotta love ya. Actually, I find more Better Homes and Gardens books than I do any other kind. Probably a solid 7 out of 10 of the cookbooks I see are Better Homes and Gardens brand. This one is chock full of pictures, half color and half black and white. This one in particular has that strong “came from an old lady’s house” smell. That’s how you know it’s quality.

And to top it all off, we’re ending with this 1967 Better Homes and Gardens So Good With Fruit book:

I’m not gonna lie, this is one of the only ones I’ve seen where I think the recipes actually sound kind of good. I mean, it’s fruit, how bad can you mess it up? There’s appetizers, desserts, beverages, dressings, and it even tells you how to freeze or can the fruits! It also tells you which fruits go best with certain meats in entrees. I feel like fruit was a bigger deal back in the day than it is now, is that true? I can imagine people in 1967 being, like, oh my god what is that thing?! And it’s literally just a pineapple. Am I totally wrong about that?

So, yeah, I have dozens of old cookbooks like this that are true relics. Maybe I should try making some of these recipes sometime, would that be something y’all are interested in seeing? I’d be sure to pick the weirdest, most unappetizing ones, like microwaved oysters or cantaloupe and lime pie. Or maybe I’d actually try to make something good out of these ancient things. Who knows?

I hope you enjoyed looking at some of my most recent additions to my collections! I’m always happy to find anything before the 80s, so these were real gems. Let me know what you think of them in the comments! And have a great day.

-AMS

61 Comments on “Showcasing My Collection: Old Cookbooks, Volume One”

  1. You should check out “Glen & Friends Cooking” on YouTube. Every Sunday, he cooks something from an old cookbook, usually somewhere from the 1850s-1930s. Plus he’s Canadian, so sometimes there’s a giant jug of real maple syrup. Highly recommended.

  2. Be careful! Lol, or you’ll have to join me at ‘Cookbooks Anonymous’. If I needed an excuse, I did start collecting waaaay before the internet. I have well over a hundred. I’m afraid of actually counting. I have one from 1897. A bunch of first editions. My daughter gave me one for a birthday, signed by Julia Child!! The church collections and the Junior League ones are cool. They really show some of the crazy popular recipes of the times. Like you have found in the old ones, ‘what were they thinking?’ Some of the really old ones just list ingredients, no measurements. I always say I’m going to go back and make recipes from them, but honestly I just love reading them. Especially the ones that have a little story with each one. Enjoy!

  3. Old cookbooks are best cookbooks. I have one that my great-grandmother saved magazine coupons and sent away for. I also have several that were made up from contributed recipes from various community groups. And yes, I actually make things from them.

  4. I’m not surprised you find a lot of BH&G cookbooks. They were advertised on TV and in magazines on the “buy now and we’ll send you a new one every month. Collect the whole set!” model. So I’m sure you’ll find PILES of BH&G cookbooks out there.

  5. Hi! We publish a small town newspaper in Massachusetts called The Manchester Cricket. We LOVE your cookbook article and wondered if you might be interested working with us to re-publish in our paper? We’re not below tempting you with the offer of letting you see a copy of our ELVIS COOKBOOK called “Are You Hungry Tonight.” news@thecricket.com. :)

  6. Check out the Betty Crocker from the 1950’s. It is still the gold standard for many basic recipes. Sometimes they even reprint it.

  7. Ahem, I don’t consider myself to have a collection and I have over 100 cookbooks. Many are in frequent rotation (thanks to an organizational system that works for me) especially the Asian cookbooks.

    Some of my best finds are from used bookstores. The ones that immediately spring to mind are “Half a Can of Tomato Paste: What to Do When You Have Too Much” and Jacqueline Heriteau’s “A Feast of Soups”. Both great for my frugal and anti-waste efforts.

    Athena, how do you organize the recipes you like, so you don’t go thumbing through dozens of cookbooks or lose track of recipes you liked?

  8. I use my 1967 copy of Joy of Cooking regularly. Dated, yes (some recipies use tripe and feet, which I avoid) but not overtly sexist. The recipe for french pancakes is my go-to for pancakes from scratch.

    So, yes, choose one of the more traditional recipies and make something! I recommend it.

    PS – A little jealous of the fondue book. I could have used it last week when I made cheese fondue from scratch for my family on NYE.

  9. I am also a big fan of buying cookbooks but, unlike you, I buy ones with recipes I think I will actually use. Several I have had for decades include The Joy of Cooking (in fact I wore out my original copy and had to get another one), The New James Beard, and Cooking with Herbs and Spices by Craig Claiborne. I pull these ones out every few months when I’m looking for a recipe to use a specific ingredient. Joy of Cooking is as much a reference book as a cookbook.

  10. My grandsons age, 8 and 6, received a fondue pot for Christmas. They quarantined before their visit with us. Their dad and mom were wonderful to do it. Anyway, on our last evening together we made chocolate fondue, to which they dipped strawberries and pound cake. They would probably love your cookbook.

  11. Samantha Bryant – Samantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. Her secret superpower is finding lost things. She writes because it’s cheaper than therapy and a lot more fun. She’s best known for her Menopausal Superhero series of novels and stories. When she's not writing or teaching, Samantha enjoys time with her family, watching old movies, baking, reading, gaming, walking in the woods with her rescue dog, and going places. Her favorite gift is tickets (to just about anything). You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @samanthabwriter or at her blog/website: http://samanthabryant.com
    Samantha Bryant

    I had to stop buying cookbooks and cull down my collection to include only ones I actually cook from, but I share your love of looking at old ones. They are a little snapshot of a cultural moment, like when dessert fondue was an innovative idea :-)

  12. I’ve got one of those hand-made cookbooks from my mother’s old church group.
    No kidding, one of the recipes is for “Mayonnaise Pie”.
    Gotta love Midwest cooking!

  13. I think actually trying out some recipes in future postings would be a neat idea, as long as it’s a mix of ‘this should be tasty’ recipes and ‘this seems like a terrible idea’ recipes (not necessarily in the same post, of course).

  14. Bob Portnell – Sparks, NV USA – In no particular order: Husband, parent, child of God, technical writer, stargazer, gamer, and in no particular order.
    Bob Portnell

    “there’s definitely a gap in the forties and thirties ”

    We didn’t cook then. It was the Depression and we were in soup kitchens, or it was the War and we ate C-rations. ;-)

    And I’m totally resisting building a library of America’s Test Kitchen books.

  15. I sold my house and moved into a camper a few years ago and my cookbooks were the very last bag of books I gave up. So hard to let go of, even though I never used them anymore. And yes to trying out the recipes — although I’d go for the ones that sound questionably fun, rather than truly terrible.

    Also, though, be careful about books that smell, especially that vague mildewy odor. It can spread to your other books and it is an allergen. I had to throw away two shelves worth of books once because they were literally making me sick, including some that had been childhood favorites. If you have no allergies, you might not care, but it’s still bad for the books.

  16. I have a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook from the 1970s that was given to me by my mother when I moved out 30+ years ago and I still use it every couple of weeks (and so do my adult kids).

  17. I have SO MANY cookbooks, but I just can’t seem to stop buying them. I buy another Mexican cookbook every time we go on vacation there, and I just adore them. The old midwest church cookbooks are national treasures, and there are tons of great recipes in them, along with a bunch of head-scratching “WTF were they thinking” recipes, too. The Jell-O molds from the 70’s are a thing of exquisite “I wouldn’t eat that if they paid me” beauty. Carrots, olives, ham, and mayonnaise with Lime Jell-O? Ew. Lol.
    My biggest personal favorite is an old cooking journal with handwritten and pasted in copies of recipes from the early 40’s. I wouldn’t make most of the things in it, but it is just such a neat slice of life from back then.

  18. You (and some of the commenters here) might enjoy the book Stand Facing the Stove: The Story of the Women Who Gave America The Joy of Cooking by Anne Mendelson. Not a cookbook, but the story of how one of America’s most influential, well-used and well-loved cookbooks came into being.

  19. Old cookbooks are the best.
    And one can never have enough cookbooks

    When my parents built their house in the mid 80’s (the one I now live in) my mom insisted that there had be a bookshelf in the kitchen for her cook books and that the kitchen and pantry be near the door to the driveway so she wouldn’t have to haul groceries all the way across the house.

    The architect thought that was stupid and that the living room should be the room nearest the driveway.

    My mom won the argument (by telling my dad he would be cooking for himself – and there are now 5 foot wide floor to ceiling shelves) and so the architect quit since he had spent all this time on plans that he had to change.

    I now use those cookbooks all the time. A few from the 1800’s, numerous from 1900-1950’s, most from the 50’s to 70’s with a leavening of new ones. My favorites are an L.L.Bean cookbook from the 70’s, one on canning from the 40’s, and the one of the newest ones from America’s Test Kitchen. The one I use the most tough is The Joy of Cooking

    I’ll also note that it is tradition in my family that when kids finally move out after finishing high school or college to live on their own that they are given a copy of The Joy of Cooking. I still have mine (from 1989) and it is still my go to cookbook although I regularly use the two older copies as well (one was my Mom’s from the 50’s and my deceased brother’s from the 60’s. The Joy of cooking is great since they also show you how to do things like shuck an oyster or cut up a pineapple. There is a new edition out that removes many of the older recipes (ones using things like tripe) and replaces them with more international fare.

  20. “I can imagine people in 1967 being, like, oh my god what is that thing?! And it’s literally just a pineapple. Am I totally wrong about that?”

    The Interstate Highway System wasn’t finished yet. Airplanes were for people, not produce. Refrigerated shipping containers were still in the future.

    Yup, pineapples were a bit exotic in a lot of places. :-)

    @Matt Q – the secret to great cheese sauces is sodium citrate powder. Creamy, unbroken Cabot 3-year Cheddar sauce, containing only chicken stock, sodium citrate, and cheese. Very sharp and creamy. You can also make your own “Velveeta” using any cheese you wish.

  21. It says something that two of those cookbooks were actually in my mother’s set of cookbooks when I was young (Fondue, and Cakes and Pies). My mother, I will note, was decidedly not a good cook. OTOH, I never knew her to actually cook from either of those two books either.

    I don’t think of myself as collecting cookbooks, yet between my husband and myself we have a full bookcases worth of all sorts, ranging from America’s Test Kitchen and Alton Brown, to Persian, Thai, and Vietnamese cookbooks. We had to do a purge a couple years ago because we had flat run out of room, and are verging on that point again already.

  22. Thumbs up on using some of the more interesting recipes as the basis of future columns. You might even consider wrapping some of the more, ahem, “adventurous” creations in a tortilla — if you happen to know anyone who would be willing to taste test an unusual burrito.

  23. I vaguely remember my mom cutting up a pineapple in the 60s, but it certainly wasn’t common. As Whitney Turner says, fruit was less transported in those days – though we did have bananas.

    I have a beat-up Joy of Cooking that probably dates to my marriage 40+ years ago, but I admit I don’t use it for actual recipes much these days, more for looking up prep or instruction things.

    I do use the River Road Recipes community cookbooks (Junior League of Baton Rouge, I think) we bought when we lived in New Orleans 35+ years ago. There are things in it I wouldn’t cook now, but some still work just fine.

  24. While cooking disasters are funny, there are a lot of people who have been going through old cookbooks and making the terrible things, these days. I think it would be more interesting and useful to see you make things from the cookbooks that aren’t terrible–things you might actually want to eat. Or to take a weird mediocre recipe and make it into something good with your own knowledge and modifications.

  25. I did a major cookbook purge a few years ago, which included such gems as The Spam Cookbook – it had a recipe for a spam milkshake – and A Man, a Can, a Plan, which was intended for people who need to cook simply for one person.

    I still have more cookbooks than I can count, my favourites are Greene on Greens because the stories are lovely and everything I’ve tried has been delicious, and a cookbook I compiled a couple of decades ago from recipes we use over and over again. I made it large print. It’s amazing. I wish I still had the WordPerfect 5.1 file I made it in!

  26. If you want to fill in that wartime cookbook gap, take a look at “Grandma’s Wartime Kitchen: World War II and the Way We Cooked” and “Grandma’s Wartime Baking Book: World War II and the Way We Baked”, both by Joanne Lamb Hayes. I have both, and have cooked out of both with varying results — the meatloaf stuffed baked potatoes turned out super-dry, partly because I assumed super-lean hamburger was the way to go. On the other hand, the recipe for apple butter cookies has been a hit since the first time I made it.

  27. timeliebe – Central NY – Dreaded Spouse-Creature to bestselling fantasy author Tamora Pierce (SONG OF THE LIONESS, THE CIRCLE OPENS, BEKA COOPER: A TORTALL LEGEND series), a co-author of TORTALL: A SPY'S GUIDE, Co-author with Tamora Pierce of Marvel's WHITE TIGER: A HERO'S OBSESSION for Marvel Comics. Contributing Editor for VIDEO Magazine during the 1990s, Columnist for C/Net 1999 - 2002.
    timeliebe

    My Mom had all of those cookbooks when I was growing up. In the 1970s, once we were back in the States, she started making cakes professionally for special occasions like birthdays and weddings, and even ran a catering business with my aunt for about a decade. Now she’s very into eating healthy, so I imagine she either threw those books out or donated them to Goodwill.

    I didn’t think our house was complete until Mom sent Tammy and I THE BETTY CROCKER COOKBOOK — the one in the three-ring binder so you could add and take out recipes? It’s still in a small bookshelf of cookbooks and appliance manuals in the kitchen, and of course I still use it! The Internet sucks in our kitchen, and there are times you just don’t want to pick up your phone to Google the recommended oven temperature for medium-rare lamb or duck.

  28. Two historically significant cookbook authors to add to your list .. M F K Fisher (example title ‘How to cook a wolf’ ) and Elizabeth David (An omelette and a glass of wine )

  29. timeliebe – Central NY – Dreaded Spouse-Creature to bestselling fantasy author Tamora Pierce (SONG OF THE LIONESS, THE CIRCLE OPENS, BEKA COOPER: A TORTALL LEGEND series), a co-author of TORTALL: A SPY'S GUIDE, Co-author with Tamora Pierce of Marvel's WHITE TIGER: A HERO'S OBSESSION for Marvel Comics. Contributing Editor for VIDEO Magazine during the 1990s, Columnist for C/Net 1999 - 2002.
    timeliebe

    ::We didn’t cook then. It was the Depression and we were in soup kitchens, or it was the War and we ate C-rations. ;-)::

    You think you’re joking, Bob Portnell — but you’re closer to the mark than you suspect. When Grandma died I helped go through her belongings, and found boxes filled with recipes either handwritten on yellowed 3″x5″ cards, or clipped from newspapers and magazines. Most of them were barely readable any more, but went back to the 1930s – 1940s. The first cookbook I found was (you guessed it) THE BETTY CROCKER COOKBOOK, one of the early three-ring binder editions….

  30. Have you ever seen the “I Hate To Cook” book? by Peg Bracken? There is a new anniversary edition that came out in the last ten years (thank goodness, as I grew up on some of these recipes and Mom’s copy had disappeared by the time I was wanting to cook them).

    Hands down, this is the absolute funniest cookbook I’ve ever read. Cover to cover and outright laughter on just about every page.

    And a question for anyone who does have the original version of this book and not the new anniversary one. Is the “Hurry Curry” recipe a Beef or Lamb curry? I’m asking because the anniversary version of the book calls a shrimp curry the “Hurry Curry” and the recipe I know as “Hurry Curry” “Indonesian Curry”.

  31. timeliebe – Central NY – Dreaded Spouse-Creature to bestselling fantasy author Tamora Pierce (SONG OF THE LIONESS, THE CIRCLE OPENS, BEKA COOPER: A TORTALL LEGEND series), a co-author of TORTALL: A SPY'S GUIDE, Co-author with Tamora Pierce of Marvel's WHITE TIGER: A HERO'S OBSESSION for Marvel Comics. Contributing Editor for VIDEO Magazine during the 1990s, Columnist for C/Net 1999 - 2002.
    timeliebe

    David AW — WTF was that architect smoking? Of course you attach the garage to the kitchen, if for no other reason because you don’t want to be smelling exhaust and gasoline fumes in your living room, or tracking motor oil across the living room rug! I knew the moment I read that the architect was a guy — and one who either ate takeout, or had his spouse do the cooking.

    otterb — you know there’s a long and ugly story attached to why you had bananas in the 1960s, directly tied into why so much of Latin America hates our guts now. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1954_Guatemalan_coup_d%27%C3%A9tat )

  32. I love some of the instructions in the old cookbooks that you never see in more modern books:
    “When gathering the chestnuts, be careful when putting your hands in the tree as the squirrels may bite”

  33. 70s cookbooks are real classics. I found one that my mom has that had a recipe for “sidewalk salad.” How to make: Take ice cream cone, put a piece of iceberg lettuce in it, then a scoop of cottage cheese. With the reasoning that the ice cream cone allows you to walk around the neighborhood while you eat your “salad?” No wonder I didn’t start liking vegetables until college. :)

  34. I hate to tell you this but people actually did eat pineapple back in 1967. It was around that time that my mother served the Easter ham with pineapple, and I roundtripped it not too long after. Never had the pork/pineapple combination the rest of my meat-eating days (which ended at 14).

    If I’d known you were an old cookbook collector I could have packed you up boxes of them and shipped them to you. I’m relocating overseas and have been working at parting with decades of old cookbooks. Yes, off to the Goodwill they’ve gone. Down to just the remnants now.

  35. Gourmet French food from a microwave??? I’m both intrigued and horrified by that as an idea.

    On Kindle (yes, I know it’s not quite the same) you can download Mrs Beeton’s book of household management, which I think was published in the latter half of the 19th century.

    I too am fascinated by recipe books (although my wife has put a limit on me buying any more). I’ve managed to pick up some very regional cookbooks, including one called ‘Stotty ‘n’ Spice cake from the North East of England (stotties with ham and Pease pudding-Yum) and a slim volume on Sommerset recipes, which unfortunately seems to have a lot of cider and dairy recipes (and dairy doesn’t agree with me these days).

  36. I have a very old Ball Canning and Preserving book on my Kindle- not for use, just for enjoyment, as many if the techniques are unsafe by modern standards. My new one gets lots of use, and has jammy fingerprints on many pages.

    By the way, I know you enjoy baking- you might want to try jam-making.

  37. I love old cookbooks and cocktail books and I love the fondue cookbook – my husband just said he thinks he may have owned that way back when.

    Among some of the “classics” I have is “Playboy’s Host & Bar Book” by Thomas Mario circa 1971 – it’s an amazing artefact of that era and a time capsule of people’s thinking. The drinks are pretty standard, but the photos are pure ’70’s.

    My real favorites are those ’60’s and 70’s cookbooks that are published by rotary clubs with titles like “My Favorite Recipes from Our Best Cooks” and the recipes are like olive cheese nuggets with Ritz crackers and the like.

    Thank you for writing about these – it’s a joy to read your writing.

  38. “Are you Hungry Tonight?” Is a great cookbook, though the one I’m thinking of may not be the one on offer. (It’s kind of an obvious title for an Elvis cookbook, tbh, and there may be fifty of them.)

    Nothing is more funnysad than old food photography. And aspics! Gotta love aspics.

  39. I’m another cook book addict, I’ve no idea how many I own. I don’t cook from all of them, but have cooked something from most of them. I like the old ones too, I have my grandmothers copy of Mrs Beeton, soo well used that my mother had it rebound. I love the household management side of the older book, the chapeters on what to fee an invalid, and how to make household cleeaning products. I also have my grandmother and mother’s personal recipe notebooks which I have cooked from, the beef olives have entered my repertoire.

    The forties cook book I own was produced by a Manchester department store, Kendall Milne to help wartime housewives cook decent meals with the rations that were available, including how to use dried egg. It has some good things in it, but also a page that shocked me – how to cook whale meat.

    I’d certainly enjoy reading about you cooking from your older books, good things though more than ones that sound horrid.

  40. We have many cookbooks (more than we should, to be honest, it’s not a big house), but my very most favorite of all of them is the 1947 edition of “The Basic Cook Book” by Heseltine and Dow that I inherited from my late mother.

    Mom was given the book brand-new when she was 18, and it is chock-full of her notes and comments and edits, which I always think are the best part of any cookbook. On page 146, the recipe for Plain Griddle Cakes is marked “3/56 – Good”, on page 305, the note says that she added “fine chpd onion & celery” to the Salmon or Tuna Fish Loaf, and on page 414, the recipe for Corn Oysters is noted “5/20/63 VERY good, setting 4 1/2 on elec stove.” As I flip through the pages, I can hear her voice telling me what she thought of each recipe, with her great laugh ringing like a bell over all.

    The book has a 96-page b/w photographic supplement that guides the reader in the steps for canning peaches, kneading and baking bread, making “gelatine desserts,” and how to set the table for “Luncheon for a bridge foursome with a stand close-by for the hot beverage.” There is are several pages devoted to “variety meats,” in case you have a hankering for kidneys or pancreas, and just in case the chicken you bought still has all its original equipment, there are directions for how to correctly remove the innards, neck and head. I particularly like the part about “slit the skin of the neck and loosen the windpipe and gullet with the fingers.” Not MY fingers, thank you very much….

    Some of the recipes in that book have never been tried by my family and probably never will be. But many are part of our regular meal rotation to this day, and even though the pages are yellow and the ink of Mom’s notes has faded, it is still one of my chief treasures.

    Enjoy your collection of vintage cookbooks, Athena! And I’d encourage you to browse the pages for those notes from the former owners – that will give you a glimpse of the world in which those books were first used, and insights into the people who owned them years or decades ago.

  41. megpie71 – Australian, female, fat, born in 1971. Been hanging around the internet (first Usenet, now blogs) since about 1997. Far too cynical for my own good.
    megpie71

    I have a few older cookbooks in my collection (as an Australian, I tend toward accumulating “Australian Women’s Weekly” cookbooks rather than anything else), and my particular enjoyment is of the ones which predate world war 2. I have a copy of a CWA (Country Women’s Association) cookbook which starts with instructions for things like “Catering for 50 People”, “Afternoon Tea at Fete”, “Wedding Breakfast for 100 Guests” and “Catering for a Public Stock Sale” (a lunch for up to 300 people, consisting of cold meat and salad with a sweet to follow, which includes things like Potato Salad for 100 people and Curry for 50 people). This is from a 2011 reprint of a cookbook first published in 1936. I have to admit, I like the cheerful insouciance of the implication that catering for 300 people at a sale of stock is something which is so normal for your average rural housewife that it needs to be at the very front of the cookbook as a ready reference, along with the cooking times for various cuts of meat.

    I also have a copy of the Golden Wattle cookery book (originally produced by staff from the Western Australian Education Department in 1926) which includes instructions on how to cure your own bacon.

    I find these cookbooks to be a window on a different time, and a different culture, almost. I mean, these days, we buy bacon from the shops, and don’t think about how it’s made, and if we want to cater a gathering of 300 people for a sale of stock, well, that’s what Subway is for.

  42. When I moved into my first off-campus apartment (1967?) my mother rummaged through the storage shelves in the basement and found for me her old cast-aluminum pressure cooker (the one where you had to keep an eye on the pressure valve or risk getting beans embedded in the ceiling. I’m not making this up; I’ve seen it done). It’s older than I am, since she got it when she got married to my father. And I’ve still got the little cookbook that came with it, as well as a few gems from my first marriage — truly, historical artifacts! And I’ve still got my copy of “The Impoverished Student’s Book of Cookery, Drinkery, and House Keepery”, but it lives in an envelope now because it has gone all to pieces.

  43. timeliebe, thanks for the link on the bananas history. I knew the general outline (which has been coming up today as “banana republic” is being thrown around a lot, go figure) but not the specifics.

  44. Have you explored James Lileks’s “Gallery of Regrettable Food”? It’s sadly not something you can physically collect, but it explores some … fascinating … cookbooks of yore ….

  45. I also have a lot of old cookbooks on my shelves. A few of the more interesting ones include:

    A copy of the Settlement Cookbook from 1954. This is the cookbook that my mother grew up with. It is early enough that it still has incredibly good advice about cooking seasonal vegetables, and has some truly wonderful charts for butchering animals. It is also doesn’t extoll the virtues of highly processed foods in the way that many cookbooks from the 50s and 60s do (yay for the post-war “better living through science!” trend which didn’t really abate until the 90s).
    I also have a very early copy of the Settlement Cookbook from 1901. This is an amazing book—it is a modern in book in style and presentation, but it has a lot of idiosyncrasies from an earlier time. Oven temperatures are nonexistent, and the measuring system is sometimes nonstandard. However, Many of the recipes for cakes, pies, and other treats are really quite good—they are typically much less sweet than modern variants, which is a nice change of pace. There are also really interesting sections on “Invalid Cooking” (i.e. cooking for folk who are bedridden), and cooking for infants and children.
    One of the odder books in my collection is called Soup. It was clearly written by a bunch of back-to-nature, commune-living hippies in the late 60s or early 70s. It is fully of hippy-dippy cartoon drawings, weird spiritualism, and some surprisingly good soup recipes. I have no idea where it came from.
    One of my very favorite books is a Kum Essen Cookbook from the 50s. The book was published by the B’nai Emunah Sisterhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma (where my mother grew up). It is a midwestern-inflected Jewish cookbook which was, as I understand it, published by the Jewish community in Tulsa as a combined bit of fundraising and community involvement. It is a really nice look into the folk cooking that my mother grew up with, and which was passed on to me.
    Finally, on a more modern note, I depend on the book Ratio for baking. I don’t actually like to bake very much (I barely got through chemistry as an undergrad, and baking feels too much like chemistry), but the general outlines in Ratio are incredibly useful, and have made my baking much better. Of note is the fact that since getting the book a few years ago, I have consistently made pizza from scratching using the guidance on bread.

  46. You have some real gems there. Yes, fondues were exotic cookery in the 1960s and 1970s. Think of what cheese was like in the US back then. Few supermarkets sold gruyere, comte or ementhaler, and you really did not want to use packaged, pre-sliced swiss. In the 1950s, people were still coming down off of the Depression followed by war rationing. James Bond got to eat an exotic fruit in his first book, Casino Royale. He ate an alligator pear aka an avocado. That, and he had a license to kill.

    The food supply changes slowly, but it changes. They figured out how to ship bananas early in the 20th century. My grandmother had one on her way to the US in Liverpool. Maybe if she had had a proper cookbook, she might have known to peel it first. In the 1960s, frozen pork bellies were the canonical trading commodity in any comedy involving investment or finance. Now, we eat pork belly fresh, and you can’t buy frozen pork belly futures on any exchange.

    Back in the 1930s, you didn’t have much of a choice, you ate what we now call heritage meats, fruits and vegetables. Horn and Hardart, the big cafeteria chain in NY, for example, got its milk and cream from a company herd of red cows. If you want vacche rosse parmesan nowadays, it’s $40 a pound. It wasn’t until the 1950s and the threat of nuclear war that they developed the boxcar tomato, capable of surviving anything but a direct hit. (OK, that’s a joke.) Just be aware that this ingredient drift might bite you if you make an old fashioned recipe. Modern pork is almost fat free and flavorless.

  47. Oh my goodness! I have the same fondue book! Somehow my family ended up with a copy of it back in the 70s, and I ended up getting it. It’s fun to go back and look through.

  48. You should be on the lookout for MFK Fisher’s How to Cook A Wolf, her depression/ww2 era cookbook for “what to do when the wolf is at the door.” I’ve gotten a lot of good recipes out of Anna Thomas’s Vegetarian Epicure from around 1970 (if you can find a first edition first printing, there’s some now-pretty-funny advice about making munchies for weed-smoking gatherings, which was edited out in later editions). From about the same era, if you have a severe attack of culinary ambitions, you might enjoy Maria and Jack Scott’s Cook Like a Peasant, Eat Like a King.

    Having collected a few oddball types of books over the decades, I applaud your hobby. It’s incredibly rewarding; if I ever become an evil wizard, digging through book bins for eldritch tomes is going to be the best part. Good hunting!

  49. nerdycellist – About me: amateur musician (voice and cello), dog lover, fat girl, avid traveler, semi-pro ranter, cheese enthusiast, Bibliophibian and sci-fi/fantasy nerd. I'm an introvert anywhere but on my own turf.
    nerdycellist

    I’ve had to get brutal with my cookbooks – many of which I picked up while traveling – after one too many moves, but that weird vintage Betty Crocker one stays. I say “vintage”, but it’s a couple of years younger than me. The cookbook includes a sidebar on the exotic new ethnic food “tacos”, with a picture of hardshell corn tacos with a reddish ground beef filling, black olives, and shredded orange cheese. I had not thought tacos were that exotic, as my parents tell me “taco” was my first word, and we lived in Eugene, Oregon in the early 70’s.

    Still, that cookbook contains a “long lost” cookie recipe of my grandmother – in that she must have originally swiped it from a previous edition of Betty Crocker. I triangulated it with the cousin who became Keeper Of The Gingercremes, and with the exception of a minor time/temp update and swapping out the shortening for butter, it was identical. Keeping it around for basic cakes and cookies when I’m looking for comfort foods.

  50. Athena, once again you have a post that lots of people respond to. Speaking of which, a few posts back you opined that your writing “had vastly improved.”

    While many commenters noted which recent posts they liked, I wanted to respond to your general opinion: While my memory for 2018 is poor, I have a very strong impression that yes, your stuff is vastly improved since then.

  51. As michelel72 mentioned above, you might enjoy the Gallery of Regrettable Food at http://lileks.com/institute/gallery/index.html

    I’ve been clearing out (slowly) my stuff and unused cookbooks are a part of that. I held on to “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, which I inherited from Mom along with “Joy of Cooking”. Both of which are very good introductions to the basics of cooking. “Mastering” assumes that the cook is a novice in the kitchen and is very good at the basics. “Joy” has lots of classic American recipes.

    These days I mostly use the Americas Test Kitchen recipes. Their omnibus slow-cooker book is great, and I also have their doorstop cookbook. Mostly, though, I look up things in their ipad app.

  52. One of my friends collects really old cookbooks (19th century) and redacts recipes from them. I like making the old recipes, but I leave the redacting to her – I’m not a good enough cook to do most things without specific measurements. But I have several early 19th-century treats I am rather partial to!

  53. The local Goodwill stores here (Austin Tx area) typically have an excellent selection of books. I usually stop in to one at least once a week to browse the books, dvds, & music CDs. Personally, I like to read cookbooks whenever I’m on a diet and trying to lose weight. Reading about making food seems to distract me from thinking about eating food.

  54. Two things that might be of interest – re. vintage cookbooks.

    1) Last fall – Jackie Kashian did an episode on her podcast about church cookbooks, – Jackie Kashian’s – THE DORK FOREST podcast, Oct 6, 2020
    Amber Preston and Midwestern Church Cookbooks – EP 591

    2) There is an good documentary by Christopher Kimball (Cook’s Country magazine) called ‘Fannie’s Last Supper’ (2010) – where they recreate a number of the recipes from the ‘The Boston Cooking School Cook Book’, written in 1896 by Fannie Farmer – using techniques and equipment from that period of time. There was also a book written by Christopher Kimball about this too.

  55. For a few years back in the ’80s I cooked recipes from a Campbell’s Soup cookbook. One or two recipes were okay, but all needed seasoning added. Chicken Cacciatore made with Campbell’s tomato soup, I recall, was dreadful.

  56. I have a copy of the 1946 Women’s Home Companion Cookbook (https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/womans-home-companion-cookbook-1790275166) that my wife and I still use for some recipes. My mom gave it to me either during college or just after graduating in 1980. We also have a similar vintage binder with handwritten recipes that my mom dictated to me over the phone or that I found elsewhere.

    Recently my wife has picked up other older cookbooks – high altitude (we live in Denver) or a specific subject (Ann Arbor cooks) – so we’ve got a number of shelves full.

  57. Oh, yes. When I left university, I moved into rented accomodation that had had a checkered history (it had, among other lives, been both a family home and a video rental library). Under the stairs there was a cupboard that had a door in the ceiling that led to another, smaller cupboard, and it seemed as though previous occupants had used this cupboard for dumping things they didn’t want amd which they subsequently forgot about when moving out. Behind the box of damaged, dodgy VHS tapes (… a pornographic version of Alice in Wonderland? Really?!) I found a ring binder containing an extensive collection of the recipe sheets that butchers’ shops gave out, dating back to the early 1960s. Which has to be the greatest thing I’ve ever recovered after being abandoned by its previous owner.

  58. Athena , I loved your post and all the interesting comments! I had to laugh at the comment about the fondue cookbook. I went to a lot of fondue parties in the 70’s. (And Paul Gross, I still have and use my mother’s Women’s Home Companion Cookbook, copyright 1947).

  59. Edmond cookbook from New Zealand.
    Its the cookbook you get given when you get married or move out of home.

    It started as a promotional recipe booklet in 1908 on how to use that new and amazing thing called baking powder and is now on its 60th edition.
    The baking recipes always work, are simple to follow and it’s a Kiwi icon.

    It’s also the taste of my childhood.

    Over 3 million copies have been sold which is amazing considering how many people actually live in NZ.

    The Iconic “Australian women’s children’s birthday cake book”, it’s what we picked our birthday cakes out of each year and mum made them (or tried too!
    If a cake ends up on the cartoon Bluey does that mean you’ve made it? (Duck cake complete with the weird potato Chip beak and popcorn hair)

Exit mobile version
%%footer%%