Saturday, May 21, 2011

Old Cookbooks, Old Recipes

By: Jaymie Leighton

Series: Vintage Kitchen Mysteries
First Title: A Deadly Grind - May 2012
Author: Victoria Hamilton

Anyone who knows me, knows I haunt thrift shops on both sides of the border (Canada and the USofA), rummage sales, garage sales... you name a place where they sell old crap, and I'm there. I mostly wallow in vintage kitchen wares: bowls, utensils, cookware, etc. But another section that draws me irresistibly is old cookbooks, the weirder the better.

There are thousands of old cookbooks out there, some from manufacturers of cookware, or appliances, and lots more from food manufacturers; cereal companies, dairies, flour makers, etc. Did you know that there are old cookbooks devoted entirely to cooking wieners in new ways, or 30 ways to cook cream of wheat, and even how to make an elegant dinner with Spam?

You can probably tell that I enjoy reading cookbooks of all ages. What I've only recently learned is that there are lots of folks like me, and they write and blog about it!

For online reading, I like Kat Kinsman's blog on Eatocracy - Vintage Cookbooks: 

And this is one of my favorite blogs: By the way... Amy, the blogger, likes cozy mystery novels, too!

Who knew that I'm not the only one? There are many folks who have made a career out of collecting and selling old cookbooks. Today I thought I'd share something from my personal collection.

Isn't this a great book, 'Cooking Indoor and Outdoor'? I love the cover image. Published in 1959 by H. S. Stuttman Inc., it has a real 'Dick and Jane' look to it. Aimed at kids, it features gems like pea and tomato soup, made with - you guessed it - one can of pea and one can of tomato soup. I have lots of great books like this one, and if folks are interested, I'd love to share some of the images and recipes from them with you all.

Personally, I'm fascinated by the 1950s and 60s fixation on jelly molds, and I'm dying to try one! I just don't know if any of my friends would eat it.

So... does anyone else like looking at old cookbooks, or even, dare I ask, collecting them?

And... what's the weirdest recipe you've ever tried? 


  1. I do like looking at those old cookbooks, but they're really scary!

  2. Jayme, this is my collecting passion, too. I've noticed that nearly every dish features mayonnaise and some flavor of Jello that doesn't exist anymore (like celery.. what's up with that?)

  3. Janet... scary?? LOL!

    And Joni... the whole jelly thing makes me laugh... folks put stuff like cabbage or frozen peas in jello, and it was supposed to be like, mmm, pass me some of that weird lime/cabbage/carrot/pea mold thingie!

    Reminds me of a scene from Christmas Vacation (the movie) where the old aunt puts cat food in a jelly mold!

  4. I collect cookbooks old & new & love reading them all. The weirdest recipe I ever tried was in the '70's-- Soybean Pie I was flirting with vegetarianism! The oldest cookbook I have is from the 1800's.

  5. Thanks for the nice note - I can't wait to see your books! I have been astonished by how many of us collectors are out there since I've been doing my vintage cookbooks and crafts presentations. I've met so many fun people with great stories.

  6. I love old cookbooks, but the weirdest recipe ever was inflicted on me by my aunt on a long road trip: orange and onions sandwiches. I will say no more.

    Looking forward to this series!

  7. Linda... soybean pie??? Even a vegetarian would blanch at that.

    Amy... you're welcome! I love your newsletter... folks, if you're interested in vintage cookbooks OR crafts, Amy's newsletters are fun and interesting!

    Mary Jane... I think that has to be the weirdest thing I've ever heard of; orange and onion sandwiches? Wow.

    I'll be popping in and out today, friends... this is a busy weekend in Queensville, MI. It's Victoria Day weekend in Canada, (always the weeknd before out Memorial Day weekend) so we found a way to get some Canadian tourists to come across the St. Clair River on the ferry... we have an annual Tea with the Queen event, where a local dresses up like Queen Victoria and has tea with the commoners. We sell tea, coffee, sandwiches and cakes, etc. I have to make something for it, but it sure won't be orange and onion sandwiches, or soybean pie!

    Hope the weather holds out!

  8. I enjoy looking through old cookbooks, in fact I love any cookbook -- it's the actual using of the recipes I'm not too keen on.
    Jelly molds bring back tons of childhood memories. Don't think I could bring myself to eat any these days.

  9. I have some old cookbooks that I love. The covers are always a hoot. The strangest thing I ever made? Around the age of twelve, I bravely baked a popcorn ice cream pie. No kidding. And it was from a recipe. It wasn't as awful as it sounds. As I recall, my cousin ate most of it.

    ~ Krista

  10. Erika, that's what I find too. Not brave enough to make roasted possum, for instance.

    Krista, popcorn ice cream pie sounds kinda good, since I love both those food groups!

  11. I love cookbooks but don't have many--and none that are too old. I did inherit a recipe box from my husband's grandmother that was chock-full of recipes from the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Like Janet mentioned--some of that stuff is scary! But fun to peek at history.

  12. I don't collect them, but I love looking at them. I have an old Betty Crocker Cookie cookbook, with pictures! The recipes would still work, although you have to adapt to modern methods a bit. And, boy, do I remember the jello molds! There wasn't a family gathering or potluck without them.

  13. Heather... save those old recipes; they're a family treasure! My Grandma Leighton told me she left some cookbooks around this big old house somewhere (she lives in a retirement home in London, Ontario - I live in the family home in Queensville, MI, like four or five generations of Leightons) and I keep meaning to track them down. I'll have to get up in the attic some rainy day and have a look around.

    Rosie... if I ever do one of the jello molds, I think it will just be experimental, not truly edible!

  14. My 94 yr old Mom has and still uses her old high school cookbook and an old original Watkins cookbook.I have a newer cookbook I reviewed "America's Best Lost Recipes" which contains a lot of Depression and WWII recipes when food was rationed. Quite a few I recognize, like "Hot Milk Cake", "Mashed Potato Fudge", "7-Up Cake", World War II Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake", "Wacky Cake", "Mile High Bologna Pie", "Corn Oysters".

  15. mightyreader... good for your mom... I know the Watkins book you're talking about. I think I may even have bought one. It's here somewhere.

    And I've actually made the Wacky cake... turns out great every time. Not many 'foolproof' cakes, but it's one of them.