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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 -http://www.thefamilycurator.com/home/...

                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.

                2. The Viennese pastry cookbook by Lilly Joss Reich

                  The Art of Fine Baking by Paula peck. mine is tattered taped and very ragged:)

                  1. Years ago, when my ex-husband's parents were alive, we would leave NYC for weekends at their home in Conn. She was a totally "old-school" cook. She always had great pies and her special "Texas Chocolate Cake" baked when we arrived. Since she was Polish, she made great pierogies and other dishes...and never, ever, ever gave me a recipe. She actually didn't have many cookbooks either. A community, or church cookbook here or there, but one book that she had. I coveted. "Mary Margaret McBride" 's encyclopedia of cooking. My God in Heaven, this book was greatness. It seemed like it was about 900 pages thick. The photographs were disgustingly entertaining. Strange and unusual dishes that made the weirdest concontions from Erma Rombauer seem simplistic. Total 1940's, 1950's. Anyway, my MIL and I kind of didn't really get along that well and she knew I wanted that book so badly. She even hid it on me and got really ticked when I found it in the attic. Needless to say, when she passed away, my husband and I were divorced, but talking. HE got ticked off when I asked him if he could bring me that book when he was going through her stuff. One of my sisters-in-law ended up with the book and probably threw it out. Oh I cannot begin to tell you how many hours I spent reading that book!

                    I posted a link to a photo of the book below!


                    1. My most-read and often used cookbook is my mother's Victory Cookbook, published in the 1940s with a foreword by Gen. MacArthur! Besides reading, I use it mostly for checking cooking temperatures for meats and for baked goods, including Yorkshire Pudding and cakes. I also enjoy reading a suffragette cookbook from 1911 (the ads themselves are fascinating) and it's interesting that some of my routine recipes (for salmon loaf, for instance) were popular back then....and a church cookbook from Detroit circa WW1...I relax by reading old Gourmets from the 1970s through the 1990s (pre-Ruth Reichl, who changed the format)....also have a series of international Time-Life cookbooks, published in the 1960s and 70s that were my mother's. I have been hunting for a cookbook on baking that was lost years ago - it could have been published in the 1930s or 1940s - I don't think it's All About Home Baking since the one recipe that I clearly remember, Egyptian chocolate cake, does not appear in that book...anyone have any clues?

                      Oh, and believe it or not, I still use my Betty Crocker Boys and Girls cookbook (circa 1960s) for certain recipes...

                      1. I like old books in general.

                        Currently thumbing through:




                        Both offer tips for way more than cooking food. If you are not interested, skip through that. The food/recipe tips are fascinating.

                        1 Reply
                        1. Oh my, these all sound so interesting!

                          One of my most treasured cookbooks (though not terribly exotic) is Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, the 1981 edition. My mother gave it to me when I moved away to go to college. It's very basic, almost extremely so, and therein lies it's utility. There are simple recipes for almost everything a home cook would want to make. Ingredients, cooking times and temps are all spot on. It's a good base to build from and make the dishes into something uniquely your own. It's also very useful when I just want to cook something with what I have on hand. It seems like modern recipes all require an expedition to the farmer's market for some exotic ingredient, which can be lots of fun, but not when you're short on time, energy or cash. ;)

                          I love Vincent Price's A Treasury of Great Recipes. A fascinating peek into restaurants and their recipes from back in the day... I admit I don't often cook from it but I love the recipe for Roast Turkey Wayside Inn. I made that turkey when I cooked my first thanksgiving dinner at 16 and it was awesome! It's still my favorite turkey recipe.

                          It was my mother's cookbook and I seriously coveted it. :)

                          Another cookbook I loved and cooked from in junior high was one that the school band sold in a fundraiser. I can't remember the title but every dish had a music related name. I couldn't resist trying recipes with titles like 'Rat--a-tat-tat Ratatouille' :)

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: thingmaker

                            The Vincent Price book sounds interesting! I also have the Sherlock Holmes cookbook, from which I've made Bubble and Squeak....

                            1. re: thingmaker

                              You have the Vincent Price cookbook? You have no idea how badly people want that. It's on my bucket list for sure!

                              I have vintage BH&G, Betty Crocker (first editions from 1954 on both), various "group" cookbooks from the 60s through the 90s, ethnic cookbooks (Indian, Italian, Cajun, Mexican, Thai) and anything else I can find in my travels. My favorite ones are the old books with prior owner's notes. Just a step back in time!

                              1. re: Dee S

                                I found the Vincent Price cookbook (from 1965 and not the later reprint) over the weekend at a flea market/antique mall. $4.00 and it's in perfect condition. I thought I was gonna die when I turned around and saw it.

                                I've picked up several other cookbooks in the past few months. Cooking with Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey ($1), Moosewood Restaurant's Low Fat Favorites ($1), signed Paul Prudhomme Louisiana Tastes ($6). There was a reprint of a late 1800s Louisiana cookbook that was tempting but they wanted $50 for it. Nope.....

                                1. re: Dee S

                                  Wow! Vincent Price for $4.00! What a find!

                                  I've got to start haunting flea markets.

                            2. I have Ali Bab's "Encyclopedia of Practical Gastronomy" (originally published 1907 in Paris - reprinted 1977 and long out of print), my Mom's 1st edition of "Joy of Cooking" (now tethered by multiple rubber bands) and a few other out-of-print gems.
                              Probably my oldest (and never utilized) is "A Young Man's Beft Companion" [sic] from 1775 which has a compendium of accounting practices, suggested business letters, surveying techniques, navigation practices - all things a young man of the 18th century should know. Also included were a few recipes and "home remedies" - a "small bowl" of this, "a handful" of that and "a pinch or two" of something else. Bless you, Fannie Farmer, and your vision of standardization.

                              1. I am taking you at your word that 20 years old does it. I have no idea whether some of these are still in print, but I really like them and still cook out of them:

                                1. The New York Times International Cookbook (mentioned below), Craig Claiborne, 1971. It has lots of good recipes, but I particularly like the Szechuan Shrimp recipe, the French Bread-and-Butter Pudding recipe, the Peking Duck recipe, and the Lemon Chicken recipe.

                                I remember stories from some of these recipes. Regarding the Peking Duck, my father came home from work one day to find two ducks tied up in twine and suspended from the handles of our kitchen cabinets with a small electric fan blowing on them. He burst into laughter. (Per the directions in the recipe, I was trying to dry out the skin on the ducks, an integral part of the recipe for Peking Duck, in which the bits of crispy skin are highly prized.)

                                I also remember shaking my head and then adding an entire bottle of lemon extract to the lemon chicken recipe, as it called for. Subsequently, many people told me that it was the best lemon chicken which they had ever had. After cooking, the lemon extract had mellowed out a bit and was excellent.

                                2. The New Orleans Cookbook, Rima and Richard Collin,
                                1975 (hardback) and 1986 (softback). I particularly liked the blender bearnaise sauce--the first time I ever tried to make it for a recipe in the book called "Chicken Pontalba." The dish is a bed of potatoes, onions, mushrooms and some other vegetables sauteed in butter and garlic with an assortment of creole/cajun spices, doused with white wine, with fried chicken breasts on top, covered with the bearnaise sauce. The bearnaise sauce recipe is still my "go-to" recipe for bearnaise sauce and the Chicken Pontalba recipe is outstanding. I also like the Shrimp Creole recipe a lot. There really is not a loser in the entire book.

                                The amount of spices that the book calls for (not chile, and not hot, necessarily) is a bit jarring, but I have closed my eyes and proceeded to follow each recipe with good results.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: gfr1111

                                  After signing up for "Eat My Books" I realized most of my cookbooks were "vintage" (and many not indexed...)

                                2. My favorite "vintage" cookbooks:

                                  A Treasury of Great Recipes, Vincent & Mary Price

                                  Love an Dishes, Niccolo Quattrociocchi

                                  The Complete Galloping Gourmet Cookbook, Graham Kerr

                                  The LL Bean Book of New England Cookery, J&E Jones

                                  Any Ford Times Cookbook

                                  Great Chefs cookbooks

                                  Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Child et all

                                  Craig Claiborne's Favorites (a series)

                                  I also have a few old Mexican and Spanish cookbooks

                                  Old New Orleans and surrounding area cookbooks (like Recipes From Antoine's Kitchen)

                                  I have several older restaurant recipe cookbooks.

                                  These are the ones that I have. Love them. I'm always looking.

                                  1. Also I'm a big fan of the Junior League cookbooks.

                                    Beyond Parsley, J.L. of Kansas City

                                    The Junior League Celebration Cookbook

                                    Colorado Cache Cookbook

                                    And one more. Not exacty vintage, but a classic;

                                    New York Cookbook, Molly O'Neill

                                    1. Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook circa 1980. Many of my mother's standbydishes come from that book. There is a photo index in the front and little drawings throughout to help you. Many things are organized by ingredient. It's just a really fun book and most things we have made are delicious. Family favorites include: chicken cordon bleu. chicken imperial, mushroom quiche, stuffed shells.

                                      1. Vintage cookbooks I've got, for sure; been collecting cookbooks since 1971. A few of my favorites, and ones I turn to time after time:

                                        The New York Times Menu Cook Book, Craig Claiborne, 1966. Pages 15-55 provide suggested menus by mealtime, for seasons, occasions, and holidays. From there the recipes start with appetizers & soups, and move on straight through to desserts and beverages. Some of my favorites: Shrimp Pate de Luxe, Wienerschnitzel for One (yes, there are menus under the heading "Cooking for One"), and Chocolate Squares (for a long time my favorite bar cookie.)

                                        Homemade Bread, Editors of Farm Journal, 1969. This is so well worn from use - and will be open again this week as I make my standby Irish Soda Bread. Other highlights for me are Whole Wheat Bread, Cinnamon Twist Bread, my favorite accompaniment to Chili con Carne, their North-South Corn Bread, and the Banana Bread ever.

                                        Farm Journal's Complete Pie Cookbook, Edited by Nell B. Nichols, Field Food Editor, 1965. Comprehensive - it covers Fruit Pies, Custard and Cream Pies, no-bakes, tarts, deep-dish, and to a lesser extent the savories; meat, chicken and fish pies, pizza and quiche. Recipes I return to: Old-fashioned Apple Pie, Butterscotch Peach Pie, USDA Pecan Pie. The copy I have now is not my original, which was lost over the years. I liked it so much I tracked it down on the 'Net a few years ago and repurchased it.

                                        The Yankee Cook Book, revised edition by Imogene Wolcott, 1971. A collection of recipes from various New England sources, including Yankee magazine and First National News, among others. Boston Style Fish Chowder, Boston Baked Beans, Corn Oysters, Boston Brown Bread are among the basic, homey treats lodged on its pages, along with many tales.

                                        These, along with the Redbook Cookbook and Good Housekeeping's cookbook, both early '70s publish dates, were my mainstays when I was teaching myself how to cook back in the day.

                                        1. The two cookbooks that I thought of immediately were Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by the late and very wonderful Laurie Colwin. I learned so much about cooking and eating from reading them. I'd never heard of broccoli rabe until I read her (I still love it), and I make one of her chocolate cakes often. Her voice in the books is warm, humorous, and unintimidating. Highly recommended!

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: The Librarian

                                            I love these two books and I keep them handy to read and refer to over and over. I was heartbroken when I read at the end of her column in what I think was the October 1992 _Gourmet_ that she had passed away.

                                            1. re: jdub1371

                                              Yes, I was going to mention Laurie Colwin's books but don't really think of them as cookbooks. I treasure my two copies. Started reading her in Gourmet. I was shocked when I heard about her death, and it's bittersweet reading her essays, especially when she talks about her daughter, who was only 8 when she died ...

                                            2. re: The Librarian

                                              Nice article about Laurie Colwin in today's New York Times:


                                              I'm glad that she's not fading away.

                                                1. re: The Librarian

                                                  OMG. I SO want to hang out with these people. I felt, when she died, I'd lost a friend, rather than a writer I admired.

                                                  1. re: The Librarian

                                                    I find extra copies where ever i can and give them to new cooks or young cooks. She is such a relief from the 'performance' cooking and the competitive attitude that grinds people down.

                                                    This NYT piece will bring more people to a way of seeing and doing cooking that is human scale. I'm also glad but i don't think Laurie Colwin will fade while you're around.

                                                2. Ooh! Thanks for this thread!

                                                  I love, LOVE, Louella Shouer 's Quick and Easy Meals for Two (1952). easily found on Amazon or other booksellers. It's a great cookbook, has little menus, very thoughtful vegetable dishes, it seems very modern actually.

                                                  Cooking with Pomiane - a close second, French and Jewish recipes, homey and simple. (1930s sometime, Pomiane was a doctor and radio host) http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/p/... Dr. Pomiane also wrote an article, or pamphlet perhaps, entitled: Vingt Plats qui Donnent la Goutte (Twenty Recipes Which Give you Gout), which is evidently untranslated and I've never been able to find. I want it badly though.

                                                  Sunset Favorite Recipes 1 - 1969 or 1971, I think there were two editions. I grew up eating these recipes, and they are all excellent, often showstoppers, and mostly pretty healthy.

                                                  Edit- pretty much in love forever BFF with my 1975 edition Joy of Cooking. It's taped together, never shall we part.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Teague

                                                    + 1 on Sunset Favorite Recipes 1 - 1969 or 1971 although I got mine at a yard sale in the late eighties.

                                                  2. Charleston Receipts/Receipts Repeats/and an entertaining book - Charleston, SC Junior League. I love these books.

                                                    the Time-Life "Foods of the World' Series - reread them every year, and use several recipes from several books.

                                                    The California Heritage Cookbook - Junior League of Pasadena, CA [you may sense a trend here. I am a total sucker for Junior League cookbooks. And the Pasadena chapter has produced several stellar ones.]

                                                    James Beard American Cooking.

                                                    More than vintage - The Settlement Cookbook, circa 1932, that was my grandmothers'. I use it, carefully, because it's falling apart.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: nikkihwood

                                                      you must be a lost cousin, nikkihwood. I'm sitting here w/ a shelf that has all the Time Life series (plus spirals) and my Charleston Receipts.

                                                      But the Settlement is such a bittersweet prize, I had my mother's 1947 version, bought when she moved to Chicago as a newly-wed girl from the very rural south. Lost it in a move, got another and hope I will find the 1932 one day.

                                                      The story of Mrs. Kander is a door into the history of women coming to the big city and to the US - what a memory. thanks

                                                      1. re: kariin

                                                        I think that we may be...and I am laughing because we are doing our semi-annual 'stuff' purge, and my husband found the TL book carton the other day. 'Are we STILL keeping these?' Oh yes, we are.

                                                        My grandmother was one of those women. It's a treasure to me. Thank you for responding!

                                                    2. i still cook regularly out of the '57 joy of cooking, is that vintage? another good one that gets overlooked is helen evans brown's west coast cookery.

                                                      1. i see this is an old thread - er, maybe that's "vintage" at this point (ha) but i don't think anyone has mentioned bert greene's "Greene on Grains" and "Greene on Greens". Also Marion Morash "Victory Garden" is still one i use constantly.

                                                        one thing i have noticed with vintage cookbooks - there are few photos (because they cost more to print). Being able to see everything (on the internet) spoils me, and it has made me pickier about what i will buy in cookbooks

                                                        1. My fave old cookbook is an older edition of Joy of Cooking. I believe the c date is late '60s, or very early '70s. I still consult it, and I also use the biscuit and cornbread recipes.

                                                          Occasionally l, I consult and use my old copy of Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook which dates from the late '60s.

                                                          1. The Grub Bag, 1971 by Ita Jones.

                                                            recipes and metaphysics, began as a food column carried by the Liberation News service... its all there - thinking about vegetarian, growing food, trading frantic stress and busy-ness for slow food. Before 'Moosewood' and right about the time of Vegetarian Epicure, Anna Thomas 1972


                                                            I cannot believe it's 43 years older and so am I. very grateful i found these.

                                                            1. I recently came across Simca's Cuisine by Simone Beck (Not vintage but a reprint from 1972.) who wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking with Julia Child. I was surprised to find that she had her own book, written after 'Mastering'. It is an interesting compilation of her favorite menus with recipes and she tells the story and history about each menu. Julia Child wrote the foreword


                                                              1. I was so happy to find a copy of Peg Bracken's I Hate to Cook Book at my library's book sale.....

                                                                and I love to cook!

                                                                1. This is an old, but nicely resurrected post! Where do I start? To name just a few in my library:

                                                                  - Moosewood Cookbook. Love it! I've made the Moussaka recipe a thousand times.
                                                                  - The Frog Commissary Cookbook - all of it!
                                                                  - Bakery Lane Soup Bowl
                                                                  - 60 Minute Gourmet (Franey/Claiborne) series saved me through my first years of marriage.
                                                                  - Silver Palate (classic)
                                                                  - Charleston Receipts (no South Carolina housewife was without it...hysterical)
                                                                  - Lee Bailey's cookbooks (beautifully photographed and inspiring)
                                                                  - Martha Stewart's "Entertaining" (Yeah, I do! First Edition)

                                                                  I often find myself at library book sales. You'd be surprised at what you might find digging through some old volumes.