There have been some new additions to the cookbook collection recently, some of which I’m ridiculously excited to share because they have sent me down a number of internet rabbit holes while also inspiring me to reconsider exactly how I organize the collection.
This fun little group of cookbooks came from my friend Jamie, who posted it in our local Buy Nothing group. Always on the lookout for interesting vintage cookbooks, I was delighted to bring them home. When I sat down with them and started really looking, I realized what a treasure trove had landed in my lap. It was a small collection of cookbooks and pamphlets produced by companies as ways of promoting their products, dating as far back as the 1920’s, all in pristine condition. Not only are they a collector’s dream, they are a study in advertising and illustration.
The oldest cookbook is “The Book of Salads: A Treasure House of KingTaste Recipes”.
In trying to date this one, I tried using the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval from the back cover as a reference before discovering the Szathmary Recipe Pamphlets Collection at the University of Iowa library website. There are a few of these collections around the internet, but it’s always fun to stumble into a new-to-me one. According to that website, this sweet little pamphlet dates to the 1920’s.
There is the Metropolitan Cook Book, brought to you by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. The cookbook itself is slightly austere – a reflection of the early 1930’s publishing date no doubt. Shoved in the pages of the Met Life cookbook was a recipe cut out of an undated newspaper for “Meal in Casserole” made with a choice of meat (ham, pork or beef) that was touted as being appetizing, labor saving and not calling for too many food ration points – I love finding these bits of history in old cookbooks.
Another gem is the Cool Kitchen Recipes cookbook published by the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company containing recipes for electrical appliances that are making the kitchen “a place one’s grandmother wouldn’t recognize, because the temperature remains cool”. Among the appliances being touted are hot plates, toasters, percolators and the electric refrigerator, with recipes for using these appliances. Interestingly enough, a recent New York Times At Home section a few weeks ago had a similar feature – the same concept, slightly updated, but both still pushing a new coffee maker. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The 1940’s bring us LaChoy’s “Art of Chinese Cookery” with rosy cheeked blonde haired child chefs and some early food styling trying to sell the home cook on Chinese cookery.
Karo Kookery, another 1940’s era publication featuring Karo Syrup also has some styled food pictures, some definitely more appetizing than others.
Perhaps my favorite of the lot, is this colorful 1940’s “Sunkist Orange Recipes for Year-round Freshness”. I’d love to have some of these images as wallpaper in a small hallway or bathroom. The colors! The graphics!
1950 brought us “Family fare: food management and recipes” published by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture, with this edition specifically printed for The Kroger Company – an early version of grocery store publications with recipes, although this one is definitely far superior, with information on nutrition and meal planning included in it’s 90-something odd pages.
There’s a flyer from Reynolds Metals Company touting clean Charcoal Cooking and a few recipes suggestions for using your Reynolds Wrap Grill and other fine Reynolds products.
There are both a 1939 and a 1954 “Good Things to Eat” published by Henkel’s Extra Fancy Flours, although the later version is geared more towards cake and pastry flour, with recipes focusing more on desserts, while the earlier tome includes pies, yeast breads and even a section of “Miscellaneous Recipes” that includes things like tomato soup (it uses flour!), Chicken a la King (served on toasted homebaked bread) and Baked Beans. The older cookbook has illustrations too, nothing fancy, but illustrations nevertheless.
Another favorite in this stack is The Morrell Menu Maker. Made to fit in a recipe box, it’s pages are tabbed, with each page offering not just a recipe, but an entire menu featuring one of the John Morrell & Co’s meat products.
The cover of the 1960 Southern Comfort ad insert from TV Guide looks like it could be from a later era – but upon opening, the graphics reflect otherewise. The recipes are for a wide array of cocktails and liquors, but many include instructions on how to sub Southern Comfort for other liquors in a variety of cocktails. There are also a few hors d’oeuvres recipes included (Polynesian pullovers, saucy shrimp dip and surprise cubes(!)) as well as a special offer on stunning blue and gold Southern Comfort Steamboat glasses with no advertising on them as part of the appeal!
The Kraft Foods flyer with October, November, December recipes includes a preview of their sponsored programs (Perry Como’s pre-holiday special! America’s favorite comedian Bob Hope!) for the upcoming 1971 Fall Television season. The mailer folds out with handy holes already punched in to go into your recipe binder or folds up neatly in your recipe box.
The only cookbooks from this lot I cannot positively date are the “Very Special Apple Recipes” produced by American Cyanamid Company in cooperation with the National Apple Institute and the “Old Fashioned Cookbook” issued by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. I’m guessing the apple cookbook was published in late 1960’s/early 1970’s, but I could be wrong. The commissioner who’s name is on the forward in the Old Fashioned Cookbook served as the state’s Ag commission for 44 years, from 1965-1989 and then again from 1993-2013, making it hard to date the cookbook exactly, although I’m certain it’s from his later term. But if you wanted to know how far down internet rabbit holes I fell over recent weeks researching these cookbooks, that’s your answer- looking up who served as West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture for the last 50 plus years.
Jamie also included this wooden covered “Here’s How” cocktail book put out by Three Mountainers in Asheville, NC. The front pages are missing, but it’s otherwise in excellent shape. It appears to have been published in 1941 and has lots of fun drink recipes, including a whole chapter on party mixes. All of these beatiful vintage treasures belonged to Jamie’s grandmother – and I am so delighted to give them a new home. I have quite the collection going now of grandmothers’ cookbooks – both our own as well as a number of friends. Not everyone wants a stack of old cookbooks, but I love them. There’s so much history contained in these through the lens of food and housekeeping.
Meredith picked up this copy of “Well Seasoned”, the cookbook put out by Les Passees, the oldest non-profit women’s organization in Memphis, Tennessee for me while thrifting recently. It looks to be a 1995 printing of the 1982 copyright – it’s a classic Southern Women’s group recipe collection, full of squash casseroles and things called “The Now-Famous Cheese Ring”, with the name of the recipe contributor at the bottom of each recipe – all women are listed by their married names, like Mrs. Thomas J. White, III and her real name in parenthesis following (Foxy Van Lackum). There are some exceptions to this, but not a whole lot. The hand drawn illustrations are beautiful and it’s exactly the sort of cookbook that makes me miss potlucks because at the beginning of this year I had decided I was going to make all the wackiest recipes out of my good southern cookbooks for all the potlucks I went to this year. Sigh. The Now-Famous Cheese Ring will just have to wait to make its appearance at a pot-luck.
Okay, so the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook is one I have thus far avoided adding to the collection. It’s in the same category as Betty Crocker, Joy of Cooking and Fannie Farmer for collectors – there are multiple editions and if you are a true collector, you have to have at least some of them. And because I happen to have a solid collection of Betty, Joy & Fannie, I have avoided BH&G until now….but I was walking the dog recently and in one of the neighborhood lending libraries, was a BH&G cookbook. So I brought it home to look at….I know….
It was this particular library where I found Marcella Hazan’s “The Classic Italian Cook Book” last summer, which is sort of the bible of Italian Cooking, so someone is purging really good cookbooks there. And before anyone even asks, yes, when I decide to purge cookbooks, I leave them in that spot too, so I’m not just taking.
Anyway. I brought this cookbook home to just peruse. A 1981 edition. It didn’t have a whole lot of appeal to me on it’s own, but it was lovely. And then Wanda said she was purging some cookbooks and did I want any? And there it was – a 1953 Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.
I mean, I’m such a softie for 1950’s cookbooks. And I already have a small collection of vintage Better Homes & Gardens Home Decor and Gardening books…so the cookbooks make sense, yes? Also, the 1950’s BH&G cookbook has a whole section on table settings. Table Settings! There are definitely similarities to the same vintage Betty Crocker, but it might be worth it to have both.
Oh, so this is the part my husband has skimmed down to read – the part about reorganizing. Ahem. I have cookbooks stacked in every room of the house. Every one of them. They’ve even creeped into Edie’s room because it turns out she reads cookbooks sometimes too. And before Pat’s nightmare of dying in a crushing avalanche of my books becomes a reality, I realize I need to get a better handle on how I keep my cookbooks organized. I’m on the hunt for a bookcase to fit in a corner of the living room to address that, giving me a little room to properly store cookbooks while also encouraging me to go through and do a proper purge. How I approach that task though is definitely another post.