The Curious Revelations of Olde Cookbooks

As part of my research for the second book, I’ve been reviewing some old-time cookbooks. This morning, I’m looking at some that belonged to Lisa’s grandmother. Vintage cookbooks offer an interesting snapshot of the culinary trends and habits of their time. Consider the “Unusual Holiday Cheese Ball” recipe from the Kenwood Ohio Women’s Club Cookbook circa 1968 that combines cream cheese, crushed pineapple, chopped onion, green pepper pecans. It’s just one of 13 cheese ball recipes. (The club included a handy “Where to Find it in the Bible” as part of its reference section.)

Another book, Grandma’s Recipes, is a typewritten self-published collection of recipes developed by an actual grandmother, Malinda Gregory. Her recipes are straightforward flavors of classic Americana, from apple pie to meatloaf to baked beans, with some intriguing throwback dishes such as lemon bisque, brown bread and applesauce cake.

Many in this lot offer truly useful information, such as substitution lists, roasting guides, suggestions on using leftovers, getting stains out of clothes, quantity cooking, etc. They also offer curious recipes that to cook them now would be something of a culinary anachronisms. Mayonnaise biscuits, spoon bread, jam cake, milk icing, fried calf’s liver, hot lemonade, cabbage gelatine and pimento cheese spread.

It’s also notable that so many of the recipes are now so easily or generally purchased that you don’t see recipes for them anymore, such as homemade catsup, condensed milk, soda crackers and hot dog relish. There’s also a recipe in one for “white sauce mixture,” which is essentially the base of most condensed soups.

And, of course, there’s a few quirky gems, such as the a step-by-step guide to cooking squirrels and possum, plus a recipe for “mountain oysters,” also known as testicles cut from bull calves, courtesy Plantation Recipes and Kountry Kooking. Sounds tasty, no?



Filed under books, food writing, reading list, recipes

4 responses to “The Curious Revelations of Olde Cookbooks

  1. very interesting post, Kathleen. I am hoping to take your food writing class one of these days. It has been sold out before I could sign up the past two times!!

  2. Kathleen, Mountain oysters, hah. Sounds tasty, no. But homemade catsup, soda crackers and hot dog relish, si. Check out this old, but incredibly comprehensive cookbook my husband found at a used book store in Japan: Everybody's Cook Book, edited by Isabel Ely Lord, Henry Holt & Co., 1924. A precursor for The Joy of Cooking, perhaps?

  3. Thanks Nancy, I'll have to look that one up.

  4. Jin

    Nice post. I love old cookbooks. My mom has one that includes recipes for all kinds of cooking without butter, eggs or sugar that was popular during the depression.

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