Monday, October 5, 2020

AROUND THE KITCHEN TABLE: Old Cookbooks + #Giveaway

VICKI: Cookbooks are invaluable sources of information on everyday life for historical writers. But not just writers love them, some people collect them, many still use much-loved recipes from them or keep them for sentimental reasons.  On the other hand, lots of people throw old cookbooks away when they become outdated.

The oldest cookbook in my house is Nellie Lyle Pattinson's CANADIAN COOK BOOK (simple name) published in 1969. It was given to me as a wedding present.  It's the only older book I still have as I fall in the looking for new and shiny category. Plus I like pictures with my recipes and most old books don't have many. I think the only thing I still make from that book is Yorkshire Pudding, on the rare occasion I make a roast. My copy is heavily marked, and I sometimes enjoy flicking though it, remembering what I used to make and the good times we had eating those dishes. Fondue parties anyone? 

Do you love old cookbooks? Do you still use them, or just collect them? Or do you throw away (or donate) them the minute something newer comes in?



PEG: I have tons of cookbooks--I don't think I've ever thrown one away. One of my Marcella Hazan's cookbooks was falling apart and when I scored a new, barely used copy at a book sale, I snapped it up and gave my daughter the old one!  I don't know when my Joy of Cooking was published, but I got it for a wedding present in 1974! And the James Beard cookbook I got around the same time is held together with a rubber band.

I have a Pepperidge Farm cookbook that had been my mother's from 1965 and a Good Housekeeping cookbook she gave me that is missing its cover. At work we would bring in books we didn't want and put them out for other people to enjoy.  I snagged a Second Edition, first printing Betty Crocker cookbook from 1956. Just a bit younger than I am! I love reading through it--how our palates have expanded and grown since then! It has instructions on how to set the table, meal planning, suggested menus and charming pictures such as these!


DARYL:  Writing about a culinary bookshop in my Cookbook Nook  Mysteries, I've gotten truly into cookbooks. My very first that i purchased with allowance money was the Gourmet Cookbook. I've used it extensively. No pictures!  But at the time, I'd also ordered the Gourmet Magazine and tried to cook all sorts of things out of it. That was during high school and college.  Recently, I have to say I've gotten away from using many of my cookbooks because I search the internet for interesting ideas. Bad me. Must go back to my cookbooks. Love looking at pictures and getting inspired.   My favorite recipes from gourmet are the beef bourguignon, basic bisquites, pie pastry, and so much more!


MADDIE: I love my old stand-bys, including my mom's very tattered, coverless Joy of Cooking with her notes written in the margins.

I've been baking out of the Tassajara Bread Book since the early seventies. The New Basics is my standby for pizza dough, Beef Bourguignon, and so much more. Jaffrey makes Indian cooking easy. I always go to the Victory Garden Cookbook when I have lots of fresh produce. And the muffin book? I'm sure I've made thousands of muffins from it. I have a few other cookbooks I love, including Julia Child and a Moosewood book. But if all I had were these five (well, plus my recipe box and the Internet), I'd be good.


LUCY: Now I'm sorry that I got rid of my mom's old THE JOY OF COOKING. It was definitely beaten up and the last puppy I had before my current Lottie had torn off the cover. I also have the Tassajara Bread Book and PUTTING THINGS BY, and the first and second MOOSEWOOD cookbooks. I'm still buying new ones, even though my most frequent go-to these days is the New York Times cooking app. Love their stuff!


LESLIE K: When I went away to college in 1974, my mother gifted me with a copy of THE JOY OF COOKING, which book is now covered with stains from years of use. But then when she and my dad moved into an assisted care facility some years back, she gifted me with HER copy, which dates from 1946 (though I believe she was given it by her mother in 1950, the year she married my dad). This vintage copy is perhaps my most valued book--and the only book I packed into the car last month when I feared we might be evacuated because of the fires. (If you'd like to read about other of my most treasured cookbooks--and what they mean to me--you can do so here.)


MAYA: I'm inserting my response here because it's related to Leslie K's. My husband-to-be gave me JOY OF COOKING, possibly as a hint, even before we got married. It was the 1964 edition. It was my kitchen bible and ended up so well used that the binding fell off and the pages came out in clumps.  

I broke down and bought the new, expanded edition in the 1990s, and tossed out the one that was falling apart. Only later did I discover that the 1990s version hadn't just added recipes, but also modified older ones, including some of my favorites from the earlier edition.

So I haunted used bookshops in search of the 1960s version. No luck, so I settled for a 1970s version, which contained the original recipes I liked. Fortunately, though, I didn't donate the newer one but kept it. When I recently looked for a ratatouille recipe, I checked the recipes in both editions and liked the one in the newer book better.  

The moral: You can't have too many copies of JOY OF COOKING. 


LINDA:  The oldest cookbook I have in my large collection is the one my nieces gave me for Christmas just before I got married.  It's Craig Clairborne's Kitchen Primer, published Oct. 1969. They really had my number and you know, I still refer to it at times, especially when doing measurements. The dust cover is long gone after a few moves. What's especially interesting to me is that these days I choose cookbooks with lovely, tempting color photos. This book has black ink sketches. 

CLEO COYLE: Great topic, Vicki! I’ll just add a mention of my favorite old cookbook. When my dad (a former Pittsburgh steel worker) passed away, I inherited this offbeat collection of recipes: COOKING ON EXTENDED BENEFITS: THE UNEMPLOYED COOKBOOK

During the deep recession of the 1970s, volunteers in the Western Pennsylvania area (where my husband and I grew up) collected favorite family recipes, which they put together into this spiral-bound volume to benefit the local food bank. They also distributed the cookbook to struggling families to lift their spirits and help them with ideas for cooking at home on a tight budget. 

As you can tell from the cookbook’s cover (which shows a married couple seated at a formal dinner table in front of a steel plant's blast furnace), a sense of humor can go a long way toward saving one's sanity during the toughest times. 

This is one cookbook I will always cherish. It was even the inspiration for a fun little recipe (see the pic below), which my husband and I included in our 15th Coffeehouse Mystery, Dead to the Last Drop. You are welcome to download the recipe as a PDF here or read the full blog post here. Enjoy! ~ Cleo

Click here or on the
image above for Cleo's recipe


LESLIE B: I can never decide whether I'm a cookbook collector or not. My shelves appear to say yes, and so do friends who give me cookbooks, some when culling their own collections! The oldest cookbook I've got is a 4" thick copy of Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking (1953), which a friend spotted in a bookshop and decided I had to have. (Need to cook a woodchuck? Call me.) Like Daryl, I've still got---and use---the first cookbook I bought with my own money, as a Teenage Bookseller, Laurel's Kitchen (1976) by Laurel Robertson, along with The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas. I particularly love community cookbooks, less for the recipes and more for the history. My fave is Butte's Heritage Cookbook, published in 1976 to celebrate the nation's bicentennial. Butte, Montana is an old mining city settled by immigrants from around the world, and each group, from American Indians to what were then called Yugoslavians, contributed a section on their history in Butte as well as representative recipes. It's a cultural heritage maintained by women, and I treasure the first edition I gave my late mother. 


DENISE: I used to collect cookbooks, but five years ago, when we moved, I got rid of all of them. My local library was having some kind of special exhibit and took them all. Now, the only physical cookbooks that I have are the one from my family and the one that I have put together in a three ring binder with recipes that I tear out of magazines.



Like Mary Jane, I have my mom's old Julia Child cookbooks. We must have grown up in similar households because I have my mom's full series of the International Time Life Cookbooks, too! They really ought to reissue them. Such classic recipes.

When Vicki told us this would be the topic, once again I rued the fact that my mom had gotten rid of a collection of cookbooks that I grew up with and adored. I didn't even remember what they were called. I had a vague recollection that she bought one each month at Kroger until she had acquired the entire set. I was determined to find them. They are the Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery. So I bought a set on Ebay!

I haven't made any of the recipes yet, but just looking at the old familiar pictures has been a joy!


MARY JANE MAFFINI: Yup. I keep cookbooks, old, new and in-between!  In recent years I have been more cautious about the ones I acquire, because those books and I will be together for life. I have almost instantly regretted any cookbook I ever parted with. To me, cookbooks are much more than collections of recipes and sometimes they are less than a traditional book. Each one brings its own memories, sometimes of failures but more often magical food events with family and friends. Also splotches of ingredients.

I have a few sad-looking specimens that are actually treasures: scrawled notebooks, reproduced booklets and recipe books from flour companies with hand-written comments by my mother, grandmother, aunties and indecipherable instructions from my mother-in-law.  My MIL’s recipes are impossible to duplicate or even interpret, but we never give up trying. Our local library had her give Italian cooking classes many years back and produced a small booklet to commemorate this. Naturally, I have that. Years ago I gave away some sixties and seventies cookbooks during a moving purge and then spent years trying to find them again.  I was able to locate copies of three Peg Bracken books and also the Time Life book on Italian cooking that has the most magnificent almond cake. It was my first baking success. Hmm.  I think I’ll make that for MLK some day!  

What fun to read about the treasured heritage cookbooks that many of you have. I still have my mother’s Julia Child books: The Art of French Cooking, volumes 1 and 2, my auntie’s NYTimes International Cookbook with Craig Clayborne in the driver’s seat. Most of these covers are too faded to photograph.   My Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook has been mended with duct-tape and I’m on my third Joy of Cooking.  I treasure my battered copy of Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens, a unique compilation of traditional recipes, that would have been lost to history without the cookbook editor, Marie Nightingale's efforts. It includes fifty years of spotches, as my effort.  

I also enjoy new trends in food and, like Vicki, I love photos of food so my latest find is the fantastic 30-Minute Low-Carb Dinners, by Toronto blogger and caterer Valerie Azinge.   

Have I mentioned I love this topic?  Hope you like to talk cookbooks too. Come over and chat.  


Leave a comment to win these 6 books 
and remember to include your email address 
so we can contact you if you win! 

Dying in a Winter Wonderland by Vicki Delany

The Solace of Bay Leaves by Leslie Budewitz

Too Hot to Handle by Mary Jane Maffini 

Candy Slain Murder by Maddie Day

Murder in the Margins by Peg Cochran (ebook)

Gingerdead Man by Maya Corrigan



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upcoming releases.



  1. I collect cookbooks. I love looking at recipes and reading the notes about the recipes. I had subscribed to the Gourmet magazine and always looked forward to reading it. I was so sad when it suddenly folded. I have a very, heavy Gourmet Magazine cookbook edited by Ruth Reichl. I would love to get the originally published copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I have one very worn copy of Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.I have used this one the most. bluedawn95864 at gmail dot com

    1. These books sound fun

    2. I loved Gourmet mag. I was so disappointed when it folded. I also loved Ricardo magazine (a Canadian publication). Yup, it folded too in English, although I think they are still bringing it out in French. No way is my French good enough to follow a recipe.

    3. Yes, so very sad about Gourmet! But I love Ruth Reichl's memoirs, which she's still publishing.

  2. I collect cookbooks and use many of them for cooking..I was able to find an old Home Economics cookbook from the 60's in a thrift store.My favorites are the ones churches put out.vadershepardatembarqmaildotcom

    1. Those church cookbooks are wonderful! Such a fabulous way of preserving our nation's history! I love to pick them up when I'm spending time in different part of the country to learn more about the area--by its food!

  3. I have a small collection of cookbooks that are old and new. I love going through them, looking a the beautiful and delicious pictures, reading the recipes, and trying each recipe out. The oldest cookbook I have is a Betty Crocker cookbook from the 70s.
    Kitten143 (at) Verizon (dot) net

  4. I love my cookbooks! Each one brings back certain memories as I peruse the pages! One of my faves & most well-worn is the Betty Crocker that was a wedding gift 43 years ago! ��

  5. I had a large collection of cookbooks but I regularly cull them when I go through a decluttering phase. I do pick one up sometimes when I am on vacation. I agree that looking through them brings back memories!

    1. Culling is required but so hard, don't you think? I've moved around the country. I donated books every time.

  6. amy guillaume lindermanOctober 5, 2020 at 8:06 AM

    one of my fave hobbies is collecting vintage cookbooks, but i do love getting new ones all the time. i need another big bookcase! aelinderman (at) sbcglobal (dot) net

    1. How fabulous. Vintage cookbooks are a peek into the past.

  7. Wow! What an awesome opportunity . I have a few cookbooks. My favorite is one based off a series of books that I loved!

  8. What a fantastic giveaway. I still occasionally use my Betty Crocker cookbook that I got 55 years ago. suefoster109 at gmail dot com

    1. The man in my life swears by his Betty Crocker!

  9. I have a few cookbooks but nothing really old. Most of the recipes I use regularly are in three ring binders
    sgiden at verizon(.)net

    1. I have three ring binders too, Sandy! I used clear plastic sleeves in them and clippings or printouts of favorite recipes. I love that system!

    2. I have a fat ring binder filled with recipes as well! If I ever had to grab something in a fire, I would take that. It contains recipes from my mother and mother-in-law plus the dishes I've traditionally made for holidays.

    3. Another fan of the 3-ring binders! We print out so many recipes from websites; if we want to keep them, that's where they go! Although I admit, sometimes I have to grab one of my own novels for a recipe I included and didn't print for myself!

  10. I'm lucky enough that my mother is still alive and still living in her home. When the day comes, I will cherish the cookbooks she used and enjoyed.

  11. Cookbooks are fun to read, especially the ones with personal stories included. We have four editions of The Joy of Cooking, which was written within a couple miles of where I sit right now. The Rombauers and Beckers lived, and may still live, in my community.

    Even though I got rid of some two dozen cookbooks when we moved last year I still have three full shelves of the ones I couldn't bear to part with. You'd think I made a different dish every five minutes! LOL

    k maslowski at fuse dot net

    1. Four editions of Joy! That's amazing. Thanks for commenting.

  12. Cookbooks are treasures. I don't have many but cherish the ones which are like old friends. Interesting and great reading. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  13. I enjoy cookbooks! My oldest is a copy of Fannie Farmer.

    1. Fannie Farmer was my second go-to cookbook when I first started cooking, after Joy of Cooking. As with Joy, I had to buy a new copy when FF fell apart. Thanks for commenting.

  14. Cookbooks which tell stories are fascinating and wonderful. I have one when I was engaged. I use it frequently. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com