133 vintage recipe cards, cookbooks and finished treats

bread and butter pickles

Aren’t beloved recipes that make it down the family tree — or across the backyard fence — the best?

Over at A Way to Garden, my friend Margaret is focusing all week on putting up the harvest. She started by showing off these Mrs. Whitacre’s pickled cukes, made from a 1952 recipe card. Margaret got these pickles and the recipe from her friend Nancy, who explained:

“Mom got it from our over-the-back-fence neighbor in Michigan. Viola Whitacre and her husband, Archie, lived in the house behind ours. Archie was the gardener; Viola kept the house and was the kind of neighbor who made us special cookies and shared jars of these wonderful bread and butter cukes, as she called them…

Over the Labor Day weekend, Retro Renovation readers shared 133 photos of their favorite recipe cards and/or cookbooks and/or photos of the delicious results.  Continue on to see their photos and stories about collecting recipes, too. –>

Tips to view slide show: Click on first image… it will enlarge and you can also read my captions… move forward or back via arrows below the photo… you can start or stop at any image:


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  1. Lisa says

    What I love most about looking through my old recipes is looking at the handwriting of friends and family members, many of whom are no longer living. Seeing my grandmother’s handwriting connects me to her in a way that’s different from seeing a photograph. The original, handwritten cards are pricess!

    • hannah says

      Lisa, I have the same feeling when I look at the recipe cards. My Grandmother or Mom would write “from Aunt Audrey” or whoever else they got the recipe from. Most all gone now.

      • Chutti says

        yes, yes! The recipes are more precious to me than the photos.

        I will NEVER know who Ira Sprague is, but her lemon pie recipe is great.

        DH and I want to write a novel with characters taken from old church cookbooks….there’s a lot between the lines if you pay attention.

        That Carol Sprunger is a wanton woman-turning men’s heads with her fancy ingredients: Soya Sauce! Water Chestnuts! Curry!

  2. lynda says

    I have many of the old cookbooks featured. My degree was in home economics back in the very old days. (I don’t even think that degree is around anymore!) It is amazing how much the recipes have changed over the years. Recipes use many more fresh ingredients now instead of canned or frozen foods. We couldn’t get the fresh vegetables and fruits year around in previous decades. I think now the cooking blogs are the new recipe cards. My daughter has a blog and she has included some great new recipes and some old family favorites. Although is easy to find the recipes on the internet, I still can’t part with the old cookbooks. It is sometimes just fun to look at them.

  3. hannah says

    Fun theme! I LOVE to cook, and I have an embarrassing amount of cookbooks. I did thin some out over the last couple of years – but then bought up a collection of Better Homes & Gardens from a guy at the local flea market. They were his Moms, in mint condition. The covers, book titles and subject matter are all fabulous!

    I still have my Grandmother’s Good & Easy (she gave it to when a pre-teen) cookbook, and I have the red and white checkerboard BC cookbook that was hers as well. She was a fabulous cook, and like someone else said, she would cut recipes out of the newspaper, magazines and stuff them in her recipe box. I still have that too, but it’s not handy at the moment and I don’t have a functional scanner.

    Keep those pics coming!!!

      • hannah says

        Thank you, Janet!

        Mr. Wonderful made the burger stew – and my jaw dropped when I tasted it. It was beyond perfect! Of course, he’s one of those cooks that doesn’t usually replicate his dishes exactly when he makes then subsequently. 🙁

        The Cheese and Garlic biscuits, I found a recipe on a blog when looking for the method for Ruby Tuesday’s little butter bomb things. The blog has a weird name, purple something. The Purple Foodie: http://purplefoodie.com/cheddar-cheese-biscuits/

        Warning: Once you start eating these fresh out of the oven, it’s hard to stop. So, maybe fast the day before. 😉

    • hannah says

      Thank you, Jay!

      My Mom used to ‘cook the snot’ out of eggs when she hard boiled them. I think after they came to a boil, she set the timer for 20 minutes! :O A childhood friend told me 12 minutes is all they need when we were young married women. That’s one secret.

      Piping the filling? Fill a zip lock bag with the filling, then snip the corner off and all of a sudden, you’re a chef! BIG secret to great deviled eggs – HELLMAN’S MAYO ONLY (otherwise known as Best Foods on the west coast).

  4. Cathy Wood says

    I loved looking at all the vintage recipes and books so much that I just bought a copy of the Weber BBQ cookbook off of ebay. Love your site.

    • Janet in CT says

      OOH, and I have always wanted to make that crown roast shown on the cover page of that cookbooklet, with the little paper thingies on the end too! Never seen one up close and personal done like that but sure is elegant!

      • Jamie says

        My family made it once just because we got sick of seeing it on the cover! It was pretty tasty, but a little lean for a family of 8.

  5. Marvel Anne says

    My mom had three full recipe boxes and I can’t find them! I so wanted to post one entitled “A Dinner to Please a Boyfriend”, which involved among other things, hamburger cooked in wine. I will keep looking, but I have posted various pamphlets I saved when my dad was basically throwing away everything that wasn’t nailed down in the house before moving.

    I know and love so many of these cookbooks, especially the Betty Crocker ones (even though I’d be hard pressed to find anything I want to make in a couple of them). I remember particularly staring at a double page spread of ice cream sodas in the “Boys and Girls” cookbook and dreaming of the day that I would make them all. Hey, I’m a grown up now; I can do what I want! I’m going to make them! (I feel like one of those Swiffer ad women 🙂

    • Chutti says

      yes- make the sodas! Alllllll of them!
      have a soda party!

      It’s almost embarrassing how thrilled we were to finally make that recipe!

  6. Janet says

    I have my sister’s 1957 Better Homes and Gardens cookbook from when she first married. She bought a later edition of it so she passed her old one on to me. Its raggedy and pages are torn out, but I love the “old-timey” feel to it and the recipes aren’t half bad.

  7. TERESA says

    Last year I had to empty my parents’ house. I found all the recipe/instruction books for the first appliances my parents bought in the mid 50’s when they bought their first home. Coldspot refrigerator, GE mixer, and the Kenmore Gas Range Recipe book I’ve posted here. The refrigerator died years and years ago, the mixer too. But the Kenmore stove was still in operation. I couldn’t bring it with me – but I brought the cookbook to remind me of 50 years of nightly meals, Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas dinners and countless other dishes that my Mom cooked in and on that stove.

  8. Janet inCT says

    THANK YOU THANK YOU, everyone, for all the wonderful photos! I just love to look at them and how nice to peruse them all this Sunday Morning with my tea. I especially LOVE the recipe tile in the kitchen! And those of you who took photos of meals or cookies etc, so well done! And Hannah, those wonderful placemats and the presentation makes me feel ashamed of how I plop a meal down at the table!

    • hannah says

      Janet, try setting a nice table, just ONCE – it’s so much fun to treat your family. That is if you have time, so many of us don’t these days. But, we have no kids, so the weekend is mine to do what I wish…and part of what gives me great joy is to prepare a great meal, and serve it up – otherwise, why did I spend all this money on vintage dinnerware, mixing bowls, flatware, etc? MUST USE! *lol*

      In a reply to Ima Pam, I talk a lot about those placemats. My Grandmother had a pink set in the 60s and I always loved them. Now, I OWN them in a few colors! I just wish I could figure out the maker of them. I have hopes one day of finding a NOS set. 😀

  9. hannah says

    Well, I love the “BOOZE” book. That couldn’t be anymore straightforward, could it? *lol* Love the graphics on it – very “Laugh-In” mod!

  10. Wendy M. says

    Wow- what an amazing assortment! This is a very fun post.
    -I love the Hostess cookbook- that’s now on my “must-have” list.
    -The “stag night” page is just hilarious.
    -I wonder why Betty Crocker advised women to lie on the floor instead of the couch…wouldn’t want to get too comfortable, I guess!
    -Every recipe from my aunt is on a Here’s What’s Cookin’ card with the grandfather clock on it…I associate those with her so much it was strange to see someone else’s writing on one!
    -I just uploaded a pic of my first cookbook- the 1966 paperback Better Homes and Gardens (a condensed version of the full cookbook.) My mom gave it to me when I moved into my first apartment. It contains the original version of what has morphed into one of my signature dinner-for-a-crowd recipes…cheese enchilladas.

  11. hannah says

    Ima Pam!!! I JUST saw your cookies! OMG! How did you get those shapes? Surely, there is no cookie cutter like that, you had to do those by hand?

    I’m going to have to look up that recipe. Gerry is the baker in the house. Seriously, how did you get those shapes? I WANTS!

    • Ima Pam says

      Hannah-well, the starbursts were a cookie cutter shape from a thrift shop, but not vintage-had a barcode tag proclaiming “made in china”-so they may be out there somewhere. The imprinted pictures on the others are from houseonthehill.net They have everything needed for old world cookies, and probably hundreds of different picture molds!

      • hannah says

        Thanks, Ima Pam! I’ll keep an eye out. We’ve not done refrigerator dough – I assume that’s what those are. Cool, then roll and cut. ??

        • Ima Pam says

          Yes! The Land o Lakes Best Ever Butter Cookies are refrigerate and roll out. I found several places with the starburst by googling “bethlehem star cookie cutter” Good luck and have fun!

  12. says

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one obsessed with vintage cookbooks! I think we have three (very packed) shelves in our pantry devoted to them at the moment. I submitted photos from one I didn’t see on here yet — The Professional Chefs’ Book of Buffets. They do absolutely astounding (and sometimes frightening) things with food in it. If you happen upon it, its worth picking up for the photos alone!

  13. Jeanne says

    Just posted a photo of my 7-layer jello that my mother always made and was always a favorite of mine. My dad was a teacher at a very ethnic (middle eastern) school in our city and my mom belonged to the Mother’s Club at the school. For a fundraiser (back in the 70s) – the Mother’s Club put together a recipe book of their favorite recipes and I still use it to this day (for my mom’s recipes as well as others). Notice the recipe for “Watergate Salad” above the 7-layer jello recipe! I think it because it has nuts in it! 🙂

  14. hannah says

    Two things.

    1. I WANT that Famous Foods from Famous People – never seen it.
    2. I read in a reply a reference that someone did a wall in recipe? I can’t pick that out and would love to view it if someone could point out which pic that is.

      • pam kueber says

        I have a set of these tiles, NOS that I spotted on ebay last year. Not installed… hoarded. I’ll have to get them out and show them all!

    • Janet says

      Hannah, I may be able to help you on the Famous Foods from Famous Places cookbook. I had several sets of cookbooks in an open front cardboard case that were either giveaways or prizes from GE years ago. My father had alot of them and everyone in the extended family got a set and I inherited several of them from Gramma and my mother and I already had a set myself. I just have to find them! I have way too much stored away and can’t find anything. Will look and see if I can locate it.

      • hannah says

        Thank you so much Janet. I’ll check it out tomorrow morning with coffee. Not feeling well tonight – fighting a flu bug I think. Going to lay down for the evening.

  15. Heidi F says

    Oh how I love vintage cookbooks. I have mom’s half burned BH&G she won in the 40’s. Her pineapple upside down cake won third prize. I love buying lots of cookbooks at estate auctions. I feel like I am reaching back though time when I find slips of paper with handwritten recipes hidden among the pages.

  16. Sara says

    I also have the Joys of Jello cookbook in your first picture. The BEST cookbook EVER! Have you ever tried any of the really whacky recipes? I once vowed to try every recipe in the book, but I haven’t made much progress yet. I love the strange dinner recipes…sort of like dinner casseroles encased in Jello complete with meats and veggies! And I also love that almost every recipe calls for “Lemon or Lemon-Lime Jello”. It’s a classic, that’s for sure!

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