Peeking Into Vintage Cookbooks

September 19, 2012

Peeking Into Vintage Cookbooks - Sweet and Savoring

Aren’t thrift stores such fascinating places to explore? I used to go looking for clothes only, and then I discovered the joy of discounted paperbacks, followed by super cheap kitchen paraphernalia: dishes, bowls, utensils, etc. I recently picked up three vintage cookbooks: two from a free box outside a shop, and one for just $0.50 (I may have done a little dance inside).

Peeking Into Vintage Cookbooks - Sweet and Savoring

This book was published in 1969, and as such, the photos are all in wonderfully old tones and colors. Here’s the back cover, featuring one of the two authors:

Peeking Into Vintage Cookbooks - Sweet and Savoring

The book features a lot of molds, gelatins and aspics: “A shiny, crystal clear aspic is beautiful to look at and a delicious cool eating experience” (Crosby & Bateman. Doubleday & Co, Inc. 1969)

Peeking Into Vintage Cookbooks - Sweet and Savoring

Jambon Persillé with Mustard Fruit Mayonnaise, Chicken Breasts en Gelée, and Dilly Tuna in Jellied Egg Ring. Oh, 1960’s, how you amuse me!

Has anyone actually eaten an aspic? I admit that I’m young enough to know of them only from books and TV, and I’ve just never understood how they became such a food trend.  I mean, really: jiggly food? Gelatinized meat? The funny shapes and, as I discovered in this book, the odd assortments of ingredients? I don’t get it. You know how trends with clothes come back after twenty years? I’m glad this doesn’t typically happen with food…right?? Please, forgive me my ignorance if you have a love of jellied foods– educate me!

One of the best parts of these books is the language, an obvious giveaway to traditional male and female roles in the 60’s: “Tucked away in the refrigerator hours before a party, cold dishes give the hostess a secure, relaxed feeling…. [American women] are constantly on the lookout for a new make-ahead concoction for their bridge group, for a special VIP luncheon, or an ultra something the boss will remember when he comes to dinner” (“Serve it Cold”, Crosby & Bateman. Doubleday & Co, Inc. 1969).  Don’t you just hate that case of nerves you get before the big scary boss comes to dinner?

Peeking Into Vintage Cookbooks - Sweet and Savoring

Also published in by Doubleday & Company, in 1968, “Trader Vic’s Pacific Island Cookbook” has quite the mishmash of culinary regions; who would think to find recipes based in Texas and Tahiti in the same book? Also intriguing is the author photo on the back cover:

Peeking Into Vintage Cookbooks - Sweet and Savoring

Does the word newscaster come to mind for anyone else? Such a whimsical pseudonym for such a business-like photo!

And of course, since we’re still in the 60’s, Trader Vic’s book would not have been complete without an aspic or two:

Peeking Into Vintage Cookbooks - Sweet and Savoring

I laughed when I read Vic’s description of sushi, which of course is available everywhere now: “…a favorite Japanese tidbit but is a seldom acquired taste with Americans”. Oh, how times have changed.

Finally, we have more international flavor with Meals with a Foreign Flair from Better Homes & Gardens (Better Homes and Gardens Creative Cooking Library, 6th Printing. Meredith Corporation, 1963):

Peeking Into Vintage Cookbooks - Sweet and Savoring

We have more “Mad Men”-esque illustrations in this one:

Peeking Into Vintage Cookbooks - Sweet and Savoring

Not to mention puzzling photo props- who was their food stylist?

Peeking Into Vintage Cookbooks - Sweet and Savoring

I was disturbed when the book tells us to pronounce paella like “(pah-ehl-yeh)”.  I thought I knew Spanish relatively well- isn’t the double L pronounced like a Y all the time? Can anyone prove me wrong or is this just a horrible error on behalf of the editors?

Sidenote: Do we have any “Friends” fans here? Remember the Thanksgiving episode where Rachel accidentally combines the recipes for shepherd’s pie and trifle? I love Ross’s reaction- his facial expression, his trying to cover up his disgust, his exclamation of “It tastes like feet!”  Trifle can actually be nice, if prepared correctly.  I did a report on England in the sixth grade, and it included a couple of British-inspired foods to sample. The trifle certainly wasn’t prepared correctly that time, either.

Peeking Into Vintage Cookbooks - Sweet and Savoring

Or, if you want something more modern, here’s Jamie Oliver’s mum’s trifle recipe.  It’s so funny reading non-American recipes, because there are all these terms I’m not familiar with- blancmange? A “punnet” of strawberries? “Custard powder”…is that like instant pudding mix?  I think I need to sit down with Andy and get a real lesson in British kitchen-speak.  I want to know everything there is to know, so as to be bilingual in American English and…English-English. As the wife of a Brit, I think this is my right, no? (Oh dear, I’m off on another tangent).

Do any of these recipes sound appealing to you? Have you ever made any of the foods mentioned here? Do I have a native Spanish-speaking reader who can clarify the paella issue? I hope you had as much fun reading this post as I had making it 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

The requisite list of related (not strictly, mind you) links from around the interwebs:

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  • Andy September 19, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    Trader Vic lives on!

  • Christy September 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Sweet! Good to know some background on our favorite old newscaster…er, cookbook author.

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