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Jul 10, 2008 08:13 PM

Your Favorite Not-so-Mainstream Vintage (Pre-1975) Cookbooks?

After finding a cool 1968 cookbook today (Volume 5 of the Ford Times Cookbook Traveler's Guide), I was reminded about how much I love OLD, vintage, weird, and fun cookbooks...

Some of my favorite finds are:

Mountain Makin's in the Smokies from 1957 (it's still in print! :


Ocracoke Cookbook (undated -- roughly 1950's -- great seafood recipes) -- there's a version of it apparently still available:


Flavor it Florida (1960's from the Miami News -- long defunct) --

Brer Rabbitt's New Orleans Molasses Recipes (undated -- but looks to be mid-century or so) -- lots of recipes that remove all hope of dieting.

Hawaiian and Pacific Foods (mid-century) by Katherine Bazore.... has great info on customs as well as recipes for Samoan, Chinese, Portuguese (!), Korean, Japanese, and Hawaiian foods.

What are yours?

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  1. A fun topic.
    One of my favorite ones just to sit and read is "A General's Diary of Treasured Recipes" by Briadier General Frank Dorn. Has great stories of different cooks who worked for him in different countries during his career. Just a fun read, with recipes.

    ""Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices" by George Leanard Herter and Berthe E. Herter. Every recipe has a story behind it. Makes for fascinating reading.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Firegoat

      second that "bull cook" book. jam-packed with fascinating lore.

    2. Bert Phillips A PASTRY CHEF COOKS AT HOME more than twenty years a head of it's time,crisp/black&white/conversions from weight to measures first rate/step by step,
      sugar plastic/tempering chocolate/puff pastry technique.All more than ten years before
      Pepin/Child/Lenotre ect
      Several from the late 19th early 20th century,The Junior League,1st and 2nd editions
      of THE PICAYUNE CREOLE COOK BOOK great histories of the food we eat and
      how many things have gone full circle.
      About 36" of pamphlets,all less than 30 pages,published locally from MAINE to ALABAMA.Mostly for coastal cooking and wild game.The firehouse/church anecdotes are delightful.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lcool

        that picayune creole cookbook is a treasure. one of my very favorite cookbooks from a while back is "cotton country collection'" from the junior charity league of monroe, louisiana.

        so many sticky note bookmarks!!!

      2. Morrison Wood's "With a Jug of Wine" It has the all-time best recipe for baked ham in it, as well as a host of other interesting and tasty recipes and tips.

        1. This may not be esoteric enough, but the Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery (12 volumes) was originally published in 1966 and was one of the things that piqued my interest in food. It was written by a number of mid-20th C food experts - Nika Hazelton et al - and has good recipes for just about anything you could think of. The photographs are amusing (entertaining spreads are a bit grisly-looking). Also good as a snapshot of food trends of the time.
          Time-Life Foods of the World series came out around the same time and has excellent recipes as well as text, also by authorities of the time - Michael Field and others. My favorite of these is A Quintet of Cuisines (Switzerland, the Low Countries, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and North Africa). The braised endive stuffed with poached chicken, wrapped in ham and gratinéed, a Belgian recipe, was a staple fancy dinner dish in the days before cholesterol...

          6 Replies
          1. re: buttertart

            Second the Time-Life books. I have The Cooking of Provincial France by MFK Fisher and it's one of my favorite things to read!

            1. re: buttertart

              I agree with the mention of the Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery. (My mother had it while I was growing up, and I purchased my own off of eBay.) Yes, it's a bit dated, which in its own way is fun. But it is also very comprehensive, and is one of the sources I turn to when confronted with even the most basic cooking question. Plenty of its standard recipes (banana nut bread, apple pie, etc.) are winners.

              1. re: buttertart

                I guess Better Homes and Gardens had to get on the bandwagon. I have a Better Homes and Gardens Encyclopedia of Cooking (circa 1970)--which, according to the brochure found inside Vol. 1, is".. a lot more than just 4200 recipes..." Yeah, it's 20 volumes of a delightful time capsule! It's a great resource for Retro Party recipes. And it's a source of incredulity--where in god's name did they get these props?

                Actually, any of the 1960s-early 1970s-ish BH&G cookbooks are a hoot. The Ground Meat Cookbook (1969) includes a fine recipe for Snappy Burgers--hamburgers made with tomato sauce, raisins, brown sugar, vinegar, and crushed gingersnaps, a veritable demon child of sauerbraten. The same tome includes a recipe for Stuffed Meat Loaf that "...has a different twist", the twist being that it's ROUND (made in a cake pan) and has a layer of rice in the middle (the picture shows something that looks suspiciously like ground beef layer cake.

                Perhaps my favorite of the vintage BH&G books I have is my first one, the Holiday Cookbook. Once again, the props in the photos are awesome. There's a Pinocchio (sp?) figurine that is used to hang mini pretzels on (pretzels on the nose). And the New Year's Eve photo shows this tabletop Ferris Wheel contraption that is used to serve olives, crackers, pistachios, and some kind of dip. And on page 95 there are directions for making your own paper Viking ship (to hold the crackers for your next Swedish smorgasbord).

                Oh, darn you buttertart, for reminding me of these books ;-) Now I'll have to put off doing what I should be doing and instead sit back and read these!

                1. re: nofunlatte

                  nofunlatte, your descriptions of the recipes and the props genuinely made me laugh out loud! thanks! ;-D

                  i love the props, too. and the photography....sure makes one appreciate the improvement in printing photos!

                  also love the period (50's-60's-70's) illustrations and color choices. i wonder what will characterize each subsequent decade?

                2. re: buttertart

                  I found some of the Woman's Day Encyclopedia of food today.. but the thrift store wanted $3 each for them and didn't even have the full set -- argghhh!

                  They look great though.. so now I have 4 of them.. ha...

                  1. re: karmalaw

                    i've never seen more than a couple of the woman's day books at a time. i only have 1, but can't recall which part of the alphabet it covers (what an organizational concept.)

                    love the time life books. have several, and glad that many have both the book AND recipe book in the "cover". so sad when they've become separated....

                3. MK Fisher anything is a fabulous read.
                  Love Escoffier, Careme, etc. but they are not terribly practical! :)

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: chefathome

                    Ooooh, I disagree about Escoffier and Careme. Some of their recipes are amazingly simple and straight forward, relying completely on great fresh natural ingredients, much easier to come by in their time than ours! Okay, okay. Given that, you're right! Can't get there from here! But I do have one Careme recipe that only calls for three or four ingredients, and you can't get much simpler than that.

                    As for pre-1975 cookbooks, I have tons of them!

                    Certainly Julia Child's "Mastering the art of..." (both volumes) and "The French Chef Cook Book" fall in this category.

                    Andre Simon's "A Concise Encyclopaedia of Gastronomy" Both a cookbook and a fantastic reference encyclopedia of recipes and all things known to be edible in mid-20th century UK.

                    And while I'm doing favorite encylopedic works, my can't-do-without Larousse Gastronomique

                    James Beard's "Menus for Entertaining"

                    The New York Times Large Type Cook Book

                    Michael Fields "Cooking School"

                    Michelle Guerard's "Cuisine Minceur"

                    Sandy Lesberg "The Great Classic Recipes of Europe", a book for the coffee table AND the kitchen!

                    Robert Carrier "The Connooisseur's Cookbook" Another great coffee table/kitchen masterpiece.

                    Anthony Blake/Quentin Crew "Great Chefs of France" Ditto.

                    Henri-Paul Pellaprat "Everyday French Cooking"

                    The Waldorf Astoria Cook Book

                    The Frances Parkinson Keyes Cook Book

                    Then working further back in time:

                    Ali Bab's "Encyclopedia of Practical Grastronomy" (1906) Great recipes of the late 19th and very early 20th centuries, yet they are timeless and many recipes are still with us today!

                    The New Settlement Cook Book (mine is the 1954 version of the 1901 original)

                    Imogene Wolcot "The New England Yankee Cook Book" (1939)

                    Marion Cabell Tyree "Housekeeping in Old Virginia" (1879) Mine is a replica printing.

                    Mrs. Isabella Beeton "The Book of Household Management" (1861 original copy)

                    To name but a few sitting on my pantry shelves. I've got to break loose and buy a reproduction of Mrs. Beeton, because I'm killing it by using it! <sigh> I really do have contemporary cook books, but these are the heart and soul of my style of cooking. Well, except when I whip up a pb&j for breakfast! '-)

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      Wow! You've got an original copy of Mrs Beeton. I'm impressed....

                      My parents have got this great cookbook from the 60s by Marguerite Patten called "Cookery in Colour". Marguerite Patten is a bit of a legend - she started as a home economist during the war, giving people advice about how to cook on rationing, and is now in her nineties, and still makes appearances on TV and radio. "Cookery in Colour" is full of scary looking pictures of stuff in aspic, or moulded into the shape of a fish. I once looked up a recipe for potted shrimp, a classic English dish, and it went something like "Turn your potted shrimps onto a plate and garnish with a piece of parsley"! Very much of its time, and great fun.

                      1. re: greedygirl

                        Well, I guess the techs ARE working on the site. This is the first time I've seen this thread since I wrote mine above, so it's the first time I've seen your response, gg.

                        The Mrs. Beeton's was a gift from friends who came from London to spend Christmas with us in our last year in Del Mar. I love it! How else would I know what a footman's duties are? '-)

                      2. re: Caroline1

                        I second the motion for the NY Times Large Type Cookbook. The recipes are well-chosen for style and panache.

                        Another favorite is a Sunset Magazine cookbook from the nineteen fifties. It has about eight different recipes for tamale pie! (Apparently a potluck staple at the time.)

                        1. re: Sharuf

                          I would love to find the Greek Meatball recipe from the Sunset cookbook that was published sometime pre-1970.