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Dec 27, 2010 01:22 PM

your favorite vintage cookbooks

i am in love with vintage cookbooks. at first i was drawn to the imagery... made little gift tags out of them for food-related gifts. now that i am actually trying the recipes, i am findiing many of them to be incredible... especially the cookies and baked goods. of course there are some trends i'm not fond of (books focused on certain products, esp. canned), but for the most part i've been really delighted. any favorite vintage cookbooks you'd like to suggest? i consider vintage at least 20 years old and although half of the chowhounders out there might curse me upon reading this, i'd like to not discuss the joy of cooking. yes, it is a great basic but i'm looking for something with a bit more personality. thanks for your ideas!

for years i poured through and collected contemporary cookbooks and although i certainly enjoy them, it is hard to keep up! i am looking for books that are full of stand-by recipes. i equate this with an album you like from beginning to end (bowie's ziggy stardust anyone?)... something that is tried and true and would keep you afloat for months at a time.

do tell!

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  1. A few of my favorites:

    Better Homes cookbook, the red & white plaid binder. Date uncertain (it's a notebook; instead of a title page it has subscription forms for the magazine) but I estimate it's from the mid to late 60s. A real piece of period Americana but, reminiscence factor aside, contains good recipes.

    Moosewood Cookbook from 1977. Quite a few recipes in there that I still turn to. Mollie Katzen is absolutely great.

    Mastering The Art Of French Cooking (vol 1), Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck, 1961. Thoroughly classic, and consistently good..

    La Technique, Jacques Pepin, 1977. ditto.

    Paula Peck's The Art Of Good Cooking, 1961, though mine is a '66 edition. Aside from the recipes for things I don't cook (like sweetbreads), one can open it at random and virtually always find something useful and delicious.

    A couple of others on my shelf which, while they aren't 100% fantastic beginning-to-end, contain some real gems:

    The New York Times International Cookbook, Craig Claiborne, 1971
    The Perfect Hostess Cook Book, Mildred O Knopf, 1950
    Mary Meade's Magic Recipes For The Electric Blender, Ruth Ellen Church, 1952
    (I include these last two because, though much of the content is merely amusing and nostalgic in a time-capsule sort of way- a real window into a vanished era, the recipes I do use are true favorites and over the decades have turned into beloved family heirlooms.)

    And of course James Beard:
    Beard On Bread
    Beard On Pasta
    The Fireside Cookbook quite dated but classic, home to some other longtime favorites.

    1 Reply
    1. re: eclecticsynergy

      some of these are totally unfamilar to me and i can't wait to check them out/look for them. the nytime cookbooks sounds really interesting as does the peck book. thanks for sending these ideas. i own the "blender" book, as you said, more for kicks than for recipes. what a hoot. and i do love the moosewood. such a great strudel recipe! thanks again.

    2. I love community cookbooks, the kinds our mom's bought at church and club meetings. They are full of good cooking and even better memories.

      1. The New James Beard, Knopf, 1981.

        The Pleasures of Seafood by R & R Collin, 1976, Dorset, 1981.

        1. This one was published in 1947. It's one of a matching set of three. She was fond of adding her opinions on things like "The Vitamin Fad". LOL

          1. Vintage cookbooks I actually cook from:

            1970s vintage Betty Crocker Cookbook. The best chocolate layer cake I've ever made came out of that book. My red spiral bound copy is falling apart, but I will not trade it in for a new model because the recipes have changed.

            1963 Betty Crocker's Cooky Book. I think I've made most of the recipes in that book. Sometimes I change up the Lemon Squares and substitute orange juice.

            +1 on Mastering the Art of French Cooking, especially the carrots in butter and the potato leek soup.

            I've collected antique cookbooks for years, mostly to read and enjoy the historical perspective. One of my favorites is a pamphlet put out by the government during World War II called "How to Eat Well Though Rationed." I would never cook out of it now, but it's a fascinating snapshot of how the country pulled together during a difficult time.

            4 Replies
            1. re: shaja

              My favorite cookbook shop is in NYC. I can do some serious damage there! Bonnie Slotnik's in Greenwich Village -

                1. re: shaja

                  I have a 1987 Bantam paperback Betty Crocker Cookbook, but I'm pretty sure the recipes are mostly from the late 60s and 70s. I turn to it over and over again for basic, unfussy, home-style recipes. It's got my favorite recipe for Sour Cream Coffee Cake, and a stupidly easy Irish Stew which sounds like it would be bland-- it's just lamb, onions, potatoes, S&P, and water-- but is quite tasty. Many, many pages turned down (oh, the days before those handy sticky page flags...) to recipes I'd like to make-- the next one might be Raisin-Spice Coffee Cake.

                  The only slight drawback to this book (for me) is there's no "chat", and no recipe introductions. For that, I turn to any of the Marion Cunningham-era Fanny Farmer cookbooks, which I also love, and which are also full of great, basic, down-home recipes.