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Vintage cookbooks can save you money

September 15, 2011

No really. I’m obsessed with vintage cookbooks. I prefer ones written after Fannie Farmer (inventor of standardized measurements) but before Campbell’s canned soups took over cooking in the 1950s and ’60s. And farm-y ones? Fantastic. Ethnic European cookbooks? Even better.

Did you know that Project Gutenberg has vintage cookbooks on it? Yep. They are awesome.

My favorite bits of vintage cookbooks? Their interesting treatments of vegetables, fruits, and meats. They are often frugal, too, as they were written for the average home cook, not written by chefs wanting to wow you with their food porn and “creativity.”

I particularly enjoy recipes using vegetables uncommon in today’s cooking repetoires (like turnips, celery root, etc.), old-fashioned fruits like gooseberries, and whole grains in baking and cooking.

I own a lot of vintage cookbooks (just check out the bookshelf), but one of the most interesting is Adele Davis’ Let’s Cook It Right. Adele’s got a lot of controversy around her other books (and her methodology), but this one is just a straightforward cookbook from the 1940s advocating whole grains, less sugar, organ meats, lots of vegetables, and lots of milk and dry milk (“the perfect food”). It also has a lot of very unique, interesting-looking recipes. I’ve decided to go against my archivist tendencies and have started marking up my cookbooks. Because my historian tendencies realized that marked up cookbooks are historically more interesting than pristine unmarked ones. So I dog-eared all the recipes that looked good.

I’ve started collecting the best of these kinds of recipes as I make them. And, of course, coming up with my own. Like the other night when I made roasted broccoli which I tossed with penne pasta, leftover roast chicken, and a sauce made of pasta water and olive oil and a little granulated garlic. The boy asked that I put that one on permanent rotation.

Eventually, these will all go into that cookbook I was talking about. Someday. Of course, writing the cookbook is the easy part. The testing is the hard part! I’m not really a cook who cooks by measurement. I cook by taste and instinct.

And those vintage cookbooks? They will always be a source of inspiration for inexpensive, delicious, and creative recipes.

Do you have a favorite vintage cookbook?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Adam permalink
    September 20, 2011 7:28 AM

    You may be interested in the Vintage Eats project:
    http://projectvintageeats.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/the-cookbooks/

  2. September 30, 2011 6:47 PM

    I have a hard time with recipes in general. I always think that I will follow a recipe, but I tend to deviate…always…but…inspiration from old cookbooks, absolutely love that! I love to look at a recipe that I only have half the ingredients for, and then sort of fudge it as I go. Much more fun that way :-)

  3. January 20, 2012 11:41 AM

    I love old cookbooks, too. My favorite is my classic Betty Crocker with the line drawings of the happy housewife and all the little tips on cooking and homemaking.

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