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Rare and favorite cookbooks

I like to collect cookbooks. In addition to contemporary cookbooks, I also like to buy rare, old, or even antique cookbooks. Does anybody have particular favorites to recommend or know of old or rare books worth looking into?

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    1. Charleston Receipts. It's a reprint from a collection from the 1950's Junior League of Charleston, SC. The recipes are archaic Southern coastal fare, usually cooked by black servants. There are stories and anecdotes from Charleston in it, and also discussions of Gullah, the African/English language spoken down there, which is currently endangered. If you found one of the original printings, I'm sure that would be quite a score. I cook out of it fairly often, actually. There are amazing recipes for desserts (this is where my pecan pies come from), entertaining, cocktails, etc. Some recipes are so authentic as to be only marginally edible, such as the Black Fruit Cake, which calls for much spice, rosewater, bourbon, and a touch of flour. It also requires long, low baking, almost dehydration instead of cooking. My brother loves to make it, and sends it to clients and famyily every year. Some love it, some think he's insane.
      It's a true regional treasure.

      2 Replies
      1. re: vickib

        I love Charleston Receipts. Is it the recipe for syllabub that tells you to take your bowl to the barn and milk the cow over it?

        1. re: Old Spice

          Yes! I'm looking at the recipe right now. Cider, brandy, and milking a cow. Now that's cooking!

      2. My favourite is called "Twelve Company Dinners; Or, the Well Fed Guest Made Easy" by Margo Rieman, published in 1956. I've never cooked anything from it but it's a fun read if you can find a copy.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mrsleny

          Ahhhh, finally, another Margo fan...I have this book and another called "Quick Gourmet Dinners" from 1972 that changed my life and influenced my entire way of cooking....this woman was a genius...I cook from these books all the time,and know most of the recipes from the "Quick.." book by heart...you must read them if you already have not....the are both good,fun reads and very useful.

        2. The 1897 Fannie Merritt Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook is one of my favorites. Has measurements like "butter the size of a walnut."

          1. I'm not sure if this is rare, but my understanding is that it's still out of print: Howard Mitchum's Provincetown Seafood Cookbook for Portuguese Cape Cod cookery, which I found for the best price at Tim's Bookstore last summer. At the time there were three or four copies on the cookbook shelf. Tim's is in Provincetown, tucked away on Commercial Street.

            1 Reply
            1. "A Salute to Onions" - Oscar Mendelsohn. Bought in a used book store in very good condition for a couple of bucks. I love his writing style and appreciation of things like tripe and onions, etc..

              1. I love my Laura Secord Cookbook (about 1967) lots of yummy comfort foods. The Signal Hill gingerbread was my latest surprise this past Xmas.

                1. I love to collect old cookbooks as well...but on the lowbrow end of the spectrum for the "kitch" factor - My latest find is The New Hotdog Cookbook - within are such gems as Endive Charlotte With Hot Dogs and Hot Dogs in a Fruited Brandy Sauce....


                  1. What are the best or mot reliable sources for finding rare, old or antique cookbooks?

                    4 Replies
                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          Thank you for posting those links! I had no idea the addall.com site exhists, what a great idea! I bet it will save me a lot of money!

                        2. re: Ora

                          For online sources, you can often find out-of-print/rare cookbooks on ebay.




                          Otherwise, in real life, a very good source is http://www.bonnieslotnickcookbooks.com/

                        3. The Gentleman's Companion by Charles Baker (1946)...can be rather expensive, since a collectors item. Mary and Vincent Price, Treasury of Great Recipes.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: OldTimer

                            I've dealt with Bonnie Slotnick in New York. She is delightful to work with.

                            1. re: zataar

                              I heartily second the Bonnie Slotnick recommendation. I haven't been in her store lately because I always buy too much!! If she doesn't have it, she can usually get it. And a lot of celeb chefs (and celebrities in general) hang out in her small shop. I've met Nick Malgeri and Amy Sedaris in there. Bonnie herself is absolutely delightful, as you would expect a rare cookbook purveyor to be.

                              1. re: zataar

                                She's awesome. And I just adore that store.

                            2. I have 2 Maria Lo Pinto cookbooks.... first editions. they were my grandmother's.

                              The Art of Making Italian Desserts; and
                              The Art of Italian Cooking.

                              Wonderful, old and simple recipes. Recipes have no more than about 10 ingredients. Pretty foolproof. The sicilian easter wreath I make every year is from these books.

                              published in the late 40's/early 50's. Every once in a while you'll see Desserts on amazon for over $50 and sometimes up to $95. Looks like Italian Cooking is available for a song.....

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: eLizard

                                I have the Art of Italian Cooking, first ed., too......inherited from my mother. I love it!
                                It's a fine resource for authentic holiday menus.

                                Another really sweet book is, "The All - Italian Cookbook", Wilma Reiva LaSasso,1958...First ed. I've used this book for years, even though I also have Lydia B., Maryann Esposito, Rao, and my beloved Ed Giobbi, and others..... The finished dishes from this book so remind me of my Grandmother.

                              2. I'm a cookbook fan, I'll list some unusual ones that I have (I regularly do triage on cookbooks and most everything else, so these have stood the test of time):

                                Wei-chuan cookbooks have very authentic recipes, they are from Taiwan, I bought 'Chinese Cuisine' back in the late 70s and it remains my favorite Chinese cookbook.

                                Bill Neal's 'Southern Cooking' is a classic from a deceased Chef in Chapel Hill NC, a review of classic southern cooking from a 'foodie' perspective - 20 years ago.

                                'Luchow's German Cookbook' this one was my parents' from a tres chic NYC restaurant in the 50s - kind of like time travel with some good and rather unhealthy recipes.

                                'The Morel Mushroom - a Guide for Roons' is a combo cookbook and food porn by a morel mushroom enthusiast.

                                'Goan Cookbook' by Joyce Fernandez is a great and authentic collection of Goan recipes (I have a zerox copy of a friend's book, I figured I'd throw it in here as it's good and sort of exotic).

                                Among older cook books, I have modern printings of Escoffier and Artusi but have thought of trying to get originals, there's also a famous first guide to mixed drinks that looked like a potential acquisition target.

                                A place I've been very happy with for buying cookbooks is:


                                1. "The Four Seasons" (Simon & Schuster, 1980) This is from the famous restaurant in NYC. It has some fantastic recipes in it. I've made several dishes over the years. I recommend the Bar Room Slaw, the Beef Tartare, Snapper w/ Citrus & Pistachios and many more. But its the sauce recipes that make it all so great.

                                  "Cooking Down East", Marjorie Standish (Maine Sunday Telegraph, 1969) This one is more regular cooking. I've made several things from here. I like the vegetables best. A great section called 'Preserving': pickles, chutney, carrot jam, jelley, green tomato mincemeat and many others.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: austx03

                                    I like the Meta Givens cookbooks.

                                    1. re: austx03

                                      Dear Austx03:

                                      Ooh, I'm so jealous of you and your 4 Seasons Cookbook! In a fit of insane reorganization and clean-up about 5 years ago, I traded it in to Moe's Books in Berkeley and have regretted it ever since.

                                      One of the few things I never tried was the recipe for fiddlehead ferns. Here in NorCal, they always look pretty wan, limp and sick when I see them.

                                      There's a cake in that book that I loved. I can't even remember what it was now.

                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                        Hey Oakjoan,
                                        I agree, this cookbook is really great and think you need a copy. So I went to Abebooks and found it for you. They have several sources and prices, for $1.00 to $88.62 (why that amount?) Once, long ago, I made one of their chocolate cakes. It was pretty spectacular! Here is the link:

                                    2. I have a treasured Sunset Magazine cookbook published in the 1950's. It's a real time capsule. It has *seven* recipes for tamale pie! :-)

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Sharuf

                                        I have a Jello recipe pamphlet from the 50s or 60s. Flavors that aren't made anymore. I love jello so this yard sale find is perfect. I love the National Grange Cookbooks but mine are falling apart. The first one I bought was published for the Bicentennial - great home cooking from the country's best cooks. When my MIL died I found her copies and gave them to my DIL.

                                      2. "The Brown Derby Cookbook." Recipes from the famous Hollywood restaurant, with little anecdotes about what actors and actresses ate what. Their recipes are awesome as well: Brown Derby Beef Stew, Cobb Salad and their house salad dressing, and their Chicken Cacciatore is par excellence!!! Try to find it!

                                        1. I don't know if it's hard to come by now, but about 20 years ago I bought a reprint of "The Picayune Creole Cook Book" which is a 1901 publication. It's full of ideas and techniques especially for things like preserves, sauces, etc.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: mlgb

                                            I've got Mama's 1947 eleventh edition of that cookbook - "price, per copy $3.00" - and I use it often, sometimes just for reference. It's a terrific source of information about life in New Orleans and Louisiana from the time of the early settlement.
                                            I have a later printing as well and it doesn't appear that they've changed it. It's still available.

                                          2. It Rains Fishes by Kasma Loha-Unchit. Sadly out of print and selling for astronomical prices, I borrowed a copy from the library and copied some of my favorite recipes. The squid salad is so good my husband said he would give up ice cream if he could eat the salad instead! The book is full of useful and witty information on Thai cooking, the traditions and background.

                                            Alice Medrich's Cookies and Brownies, and also Cocolat. Both are OOP but I found copies on ebay, again for ridiculous prices. They're both wonderful resources on baking from Medrich whose recipes are bulletproof. I enjoy both books enormously, and I'm not even particularly fond of chocolate.

                                            1. Look for three cookbooks by Elsie Masterton "The Blueberry Hill Cookbook", "The Blueberry Hill Menu Cookbook," And the "Blueberry Hill Kitchen Notebook." She moved form NYC to Vermont in the '40s to start an inn and learned to cook very, very well. She's a a great writer and these books read like literature. Way ahead of her time in quality food preparation too. Great books.

                                              1. I love my Nero Wolfe Cookbook printed in 1963. I probably bought it at the Strand in NYC about 30 years ago. There's a great recipe I used to make all the time (until I started to worry about the high fat content) called Creole Fritters with Cheese Sauce. They're made of shrimp, flour, wine, cayenne, eggs, onions, etc. and served with a sauce made with "Vermont Cheddar cheese", dry sherry, tomato paste, cream, butter, flour, lemon juice and cayenne.

                                                After a while, I stopped making the shrimp fritters with flour and made them more like codfish cakes, i.e., with potatoes. They were always glorious, but sooooo rich.

                                                It also has recipes for Turtle Steaks, Shad Roe with Creole Sauce, Scrapple, Broiled Shad with Sorrel Sauce, Celery and Cantaloupe Salad, Braised Wild Turkey, Capon Souvaroff (including EIGHT whole black truffles, 1 1/2 cups pate de foie gras, pork fat, and Madeira wine. Further there are recipes for Kentucky Burgoo, Green Tomato Pie, Fig and Cherry p\Pie, Curried Duck, Shad Roe Mousse Pocahontas, Blue Grouse, Perdrix en Casserole, Avacado with Black Walnuts and Watercress, and, last but not least, Ham Sandwich.

                                                Another recipe I love is Potage Germiny a l'Oseille. I know that this isn't a rare or unusual recipe, but it's verrry good. I love the sour taste of sorrel.

                                                1/3 cup sliced onions
                                                2 Tbsp butter
                                                1/2 lb. sorrel
                                                1/2 tsp. salt
                                                5 cups chicken consomme
                                                salt and white pepper to taste (I know, he already put in salt once, this is just checking to make sure there's enough)
                                                2 egg yolks
                                                1/3 cup heavy cream
                                                1/4 dry sherry

                                                Cook onions in the butter slowly for about 5 minutes. Don't brown. Add sorrel (reserve a bit for garnish) add salt, and cook uncovered for 5 minutes more. Add the consomme and when it comes to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and puree in a blender. Correct seasoning. Keep the soup hot over a low flame. In a mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks and cream. Beat with a whisk and slowly add a cup of the hot soup, beating constantly. Gradually pour this mixture into the soup kettle, beating with the whisk. Add the sherry. Reheat for a minute or two BUT NOT BOILING. Garnish each bowl with a few shreds of sorrel.

                                                Stout warns us that you may make this soup with spinach as well, but you must change the name to Germiny a l'Epinards.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: oakjoan

                                                  I also have the Nero Wolfe Cookbook. A friend gave me her copy years ago. I haven't made a lot from it, but I really enjoy reading it. Everything in it sounds scrumptious. I really will have to try that sorrel souop and the green tomato pie!

                                                2. I have a three volume set of chinese cookbooks that is half in chinese and half in English called "Pei Mei's Chinese Cooking" that has an encyclopedic run of foods that includes a large number of regional dishes and some unusual ones as well. Aside from a few translational errors, it is a great reference.

                                                  1. I have a warm bacon vinegarete recipe that I was told came from a Vincent Price cookbook. Evidently, He was an Executive Chef besides a horror movie actor and producer. I cannot find his cookbooks anywhere. Do you know where I can find it

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: CHEFBUCK

                                                      There are several copies of a cookbook by Vincent Price on www.alibris.com. Here's the link:


                                                      1. re: DanaB

                                                        Great site to know about Thanks Dana

                                                    2. My favorite food writing/cookbook is The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth, written by Roy Andries de Groot in 1973...I have even moved it from my cookbook library to my bedroom bookshelves, because I so often need to read the first 4 chapters describing his first trip into the Valley of the Grand Chartreuse

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: sfbecky

                                                        Oh, I have this book and love it. The feeling of coziness with the big fireplace and the food, recipes and monastery never grows old. I've had it for years.

                                                        1. re: oakjoan

                                                          Look for a copy of Sheila Hbben's American Cookery, pub ca 1928. Very limited printing and a very sophisiticated book for it's time. Also see if you can lay your hands on Marion Brown's Southern Cooking (Chapel Hill Press) way ahead of Little League press

                                                      2. Don't know how rare they are but anything by Elizabeth David especially "An Omelet and a Glass of Wine" which has a lot of essays and recipes; the early Time Life books--Richard Olney was the chief consultant but lots of others including Jeremiah Tower were a part of this wonderful project, I have the Pasta and the Vegetable books and the first cookbook I bought for myself Craig Claibornes NYTimes cookbook.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: annabana

                                                          An Omelette and a Glass of Wine was available in the UK and Canada through Penguin Books, so I don't think that it's that rare in itself; first edition, perhaps.

                                                          Another vote for Ma Cuisine. I gave my copy to a chef friend of mine. It went to a good home, but I do regret it, sometimes.

                                                          1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                            An Omlette and a Glass of wine was re-issued not that long ago as party of a series on classic food writing. Here's a link from Amazon: