Thanksgiving with Vintage & Community Cookbooks

hawaiian-cookbook-coverIt’s that time of year (and rare) when I drag out all the cookbooks and pore over them. This Hawaiian cookbook is a little gem that I inherited. It’s only about 4″ x 7″ so it’s sweet to hold. The book was published by Peter Pauper Press in the 60’s with “decorations” (I assume the mean the beautiful wood-block print illustrations) by Ruth McCrea.  I love her simple forms and use of only three colors, leaving the background of the paper bare to make the fourth color. I’ve collected an assortment of retro cooking-related graphics (one story here) that I look at for inspiration, you can see some of them in my Flickr set (click thumbnails to enlarge.)

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“Friendship feeds the soul
As food nourishes body,
Food for both are here.”
from the Richmond-Shimada Sister Cities Friendship Cookbook

Recently I was giving a First and Calvary cookbook for my birthday. The cookbook committee had smartly put an index by author in the back, and soon I realized it was great fun to look up people I know and compare their personality to their recipes.vintage-cookbooks

I have several vintage church and community cookbooks, some added from my grandmother’s collection after she passed. I especially like the west coast ones that usually have large, some almost half the book, Asian and Japanese sections.

The small green one is the most stained. “Our Treasured Recipes” from the Wesley United Methodist San Jose Church is one of my favorites, and where I learned many mochi and manju (Japanese sweet bean cakes) recipes when I decided to learn to cook something not easily found in the Midwest —  breaking my general rule of thumb to not cook recipes with more ingredients or instructions than will fit on a 3″ x 5″ card.

rountree-cookbookMost of these cookbooks were designed with a typewriter (remember those?) and it’s fun to see the name of the person and their style of instructions. Sometimes I find notes someone has handwritten into the margins, or an auxiliary recipe or clipping tucked in between pages. Do you have any old dog-eared, coffee-stained, and beloved cookbooks that you pull out every year?

p.s. Just found this old school cookbook from the neighborhood and had to add the back cover. I wish I knew who J.W. was, because I really love his/her? drawing — looks like someone’s making a turkey on the Titanic!

17 thoughts on “Thanksgiving with Vintage & Community Cookbooks”

  1. Great post, Pam. I recently went through my mother’s old recipe box and had great fun reading recipes she received from her friends. Some of them were handwritten and I passed them along to the daughters of those who had written them. They were thrilled to have a “piece of history” in their moms’ handwriting plus the vintage recipe. I think most of them were from the 60’s and 70’s but hard to tell as most weren’t dated. I treasure the recipes that my mother and sister handwrote – every time I make one of them I feel like they are right there with me.

  2. I have the late 1940s/early 50s version of Betty Crocker, great recipes if you want truly homemade food, and a Watkins cookbook for canning. But the real treasure is a 50s Chun King recipe book. I always wondered why my mother made chop suey with a hard boiled egg sliced on top, and now I know. Strange but surprisingly good.
    Love the orange illustration with the woman’s head cut off.

  3. Funny you should bring up cookbooks. Your illustrations use the technique that I so admire in the older books. Seems quite right that you would collect them. I have a 1950’s copy of the Betty Crocker cookbook that I think Andy Worhol illustrated. I have no real good info on what the period of time was where was illustrating them, but the illustrations look like the ones he worked on. I will post a scan f one of the images when I get the time….

  4. I loved this post! The church/various group cookbooks are my favorites. They are someones ‘tried and true’ recipes. My favorite by far, tho , has to be the cookbook my grandmother was given as a bride. She inscribed her name and the year of her marriage. Then she gave it to my mom when my parents got married…and it was given to ME when I got married. The cookbook is really a story of a bride and in every chapter, she cooks something…and you get the recipe! Some of the ingredients I have never even HEARD of! Her name is Bettina…that is what my grandmother called me as a little girl. I love visiting your blog!

    1. Thanks Beth, I’m so glad you got what I was trying to say. I was trying to say what a connection I had to real people through their favorite recipes, but was feeling a little rusty in my writing and blogging. I think you may have said it much better than me. Glad you liked the post and keep cooking!

  5. Wonderful, the “hawaiian” cover! I had a cookbook clearout a few years back, but kept the vintage ones with graphics of any sort. Some things you just can’t get rid of easily.

    1. Thanks for the comment Margaret. I was glad I followed the link to your blog — I hadn’t been there in a while and enjoyed reading about your sculpture classes and seeing all the photos.

  6. wonderful cookbooks!
    Pam, I do believe you are the true Maverick….forget that girl from Alaska! LOL I love your spunk: deciding not to cook food typical of the Midwest! You Go Girl!!!
    I have about a gazillion cookbooks and need to photograph some of the real ‘moldy oldies’ one day. I had a real field day when we first moved to Georgia: buying every small community and Jr League cookbook I could get my hands on. And of course, I never throw anything away!!
    Happy Thanksgiving Dear Heart!!


  7. We have an old wooden box that is crammed with recipes from friends and family. Most are on bits and pieces of paper – and of course, the best ones are stained ( including the one the dog ate the corner of – I think that meant two paws up for that recipe!).

    1. Wooden box – that sounds great. I’ve collected some of those retro recipe tins, but never got organized enough to put anything other than blank cards into them.

      Great new post on your blog, the interview with Susan Shie –
      thanks for posting that.

  8. That is too funny – I have the Simple Hawaiian Cookery book and have tried some of the recipes over the years. I have this other vintage book “Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Eating Places” from 1950 put out by the Ford Motor Company. It has quaint illustrations of inn and/or restaurant.

    1. In a small town second hand store, I found a couple of the wonderful little Ford Motor Company cookbooks with the recipes gathered from the famous restaurants and inns. I think my cookbooks were from the late 50’s, and Ford was not only promoting their product, the the idea of cross-country car vacations. While I’ve never cooked from any of the recipes, I still LOVE to pour over the pages, often reading every word and closely examining every illustration. The volumes were regional, and the illustrations accompanying each recipe showed some view – maybe a seasonal exterior of the establishment – often with a Ford or two somehow included in the scene! As a cook and fan of cookbooks, a professional artist and publication designer, I’ve found myself enchanted and feeling very nostalgic whenever I spend time with one of these little gems. Many of the recipes are a hoot, calling for canned sauces or vegetables – impossible to imagine today in the kitchen of top restaurants. A last point – about 20 percent of the featured “eating places” are still in business today – presumably cooking with more fresh ingredients!

      1. wow, that’s amazing that some of those places are still in business. I think I’ve seen one of those Ford Motor cookbooks. I love looking at the illustrations too.

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