16 best cookbooks and recipe cards from readers’ vintage collections

Vintage retro-recipe-boxI had so much fun looking through the 133 vintage recipe cards, cookbooks and finished treats from the Labor Day weekend uploader. The recipe box above belonged to reader Tut‘s mother, who used it for decades — and took mighty fine care of it I might add — it looks to be in pristine condition. The lively illustrations, fanciful type and sentimental value make this a family treasure for sure.

Cooking can be humorous

vintage recipe cardI noticed a definite recurring theme in reader submissions — humor. Again and again I found myself confronted with clever titles, humorous photos or illustrations and references that are laugh-inducing. The illustrated recipe card above, submitted by Louisa, reminded me of some of my own family’s cooking blunders. My Nana — who loved to give dinner parties, but did not love to cook — was known to serve exploded peas as the vegetable at many a gathering. I like to think she was having too much fun at her own party to patrol the peas. My mother’s issues were in the baking department. She has managed to burn and make lop-sided the store-bought, frozen Mrs. Smith’s pumpkin pie every year on Thanksgiving — which has now become a tradition. I admit, I’ve had my own hilarious cooking blunders over the years — and I’m sure there is some truth to laughter being the best medicine, followed by a healthy portion of home cookin’.

Vintage Cook book donutsThe 1949 cookbook above — which features 112 pages of recipes all using healthy “digestible” Crisco — is wonderful for so many reasons. I’m in love with the vintage wallpaper, the stove — and is that a Revere Ware pot on the stove? What I love most though, is the ridiculously joyful expressions on everyone’s faces — especially the kids — who appear to be on sugar overload already.

retro Meat-Power-cookbook-1962Above: Who wouldn’t want to attend a party powered by meat? That is one big ham. That’s Meat Power!

Alice's-Restaurant-cook-bookAbove: Speaking of meat, I don’t know what would posses Alice to hug a heaping pile of raw chicken and beef (I think?) — maybe she’s on her way to the meat power party? Weren’t the hippies all vegetarians? I hope she’s going to change first.

aunt-jeminma bacon cakesAbove: We have reader Bungalow Bill to thank for submitting this delicious meat dish, which he claims is “actually pretty awesome.” Apparently the bacon craze of today has been going strong for years.

retro stag-night-recipesstag-night recipesAbove and right: This excerpt from reader Hannah‘s retro Good Housekeeping 10pm Cookbook, has a special section for when your late night dinner crowd will be “strictly stag.” The spread they suggest: A sausage fest. I’m in disbelief that the publisher gave the okay for that hot dog and bean arrangement.




schmecks-appeal-1990-Mennonite cook bookAbove: As long as our minds are in the gutter, why not try cooking something from one of these cookbooks — guaranteed to have a plentiful serving of Schmecks Appeal?

buffets-book-LarsErik-1971Above: Thanks to reader LarsErik for submitting this interesting cookbook cover — featuring dozens of professional chefs sitting around and smoking while they admire the buffet of food they have just created.

retrp booze-book

retro booze-book insideAbove: This cookbook cover nearly blew me out of my computer chair with its bold and succinct title — I’ll give the cover designer credit for simulating the hangover that will surely occur after using this book.

serving-food-attractively vintage cook book

Above: Yes this cookbook will show you how to serve food attractively — but what is that? Artichokes filled with jello?

Vintage cookbooks with great illustrations

retro betty-crocker-hostess-cookbookAll comedy aside now, there were several wonderfully illustrated examples of vintage cookbooks. The cookbook above is so cool — because of the mid century house on the cover — that two of our readers uploaded photos of it. The photo above is courtesy of reader Hannah. Reader Ima Pam also owns this book.

simple-recipes retro cookbooksAbove: I love the graphics on this collection of mini cookbooks — from reader Mary — featuring different ethic styles of cooking.

retro cookbook ways with wineAbove: Here’s another brightly colored cookbook with great graphics. The cover makes it look like cooking these great dishes is as easy as opening a bottle of wine.

vintage-recipe-tile-in-kitchenAbove: If you aren’t the cookbook type, there are always great vintage recipe tiles that can be built right into your backsplash. The tile looks good — not sure about the cream dressing recipe.

retro betty crocker-good posureAbove: If all this talk of cooking is making you tired — you can always lay down on your kitchen floor — a remedy advised by this Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, submitted by reader Betsy . If that doesn’t sound appealing, take Betsy’s advice, “…leave the floor dirty and head out for drinks with {your} friends.”

Thanks to everyone for all your photos, they were great!

Do you have any humorous cooking stories to share?
Anyone else’s Nana make them eat exploded peas with their dinner?

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  1. Janet in CT says

    Oh, Do I! In 1972, right after we got married, I decided to attempt to cook a duckling, my husband’s favorite. He went fishing with a friend who was coming over for dinner. I popped it in the oven and half an hour later, my little apartment was full of smoke! I opened all the windows and decided to run down to my mother’s house to finish it in her oven because I had suspected our ancient little 20″ gas range’s oven had no temperature control at all. Phil had gone fishing with a friend and took the car, so I had borrowed my father’s Chevy van with the sliding door in back. It was a delivery van so the back was totally empty, and the floor was bare metal with no rug or mat. I took duckling, hot pan and all, and stuck it in the back on the floor. As I sped to my mother’s house, I rounded a curve and the pan with duckling slid across the back of the van and flipped over right into the dirty step down at the sliding side door, grease everywhere! Needless to say, I cleaned up the mess in the van and went home disgusted with my grit coated duckling carcass, only to find the landlady, my husband and his friend frantically trying to figure out where all the smoke was coming from and what was burning. I tried to explain the oven overheated and the duck grease spatter smoked up the house, but they just thought I was a dumb new bride who didn’t know how to cook. I was sniffling at the table while we ate hamburg and gravy, as they kept trying to stifle their occasional giggling fits with a hand at the mouth. I was mortified and never attempted to cook a duck since.

    • Elaine says

      Oh, my, I hear you about that duck. I learned when my mom tried to cook a goose. Grease everywhere! When I cooked a goose, I parboiled it first and got a whole lot of nice white goose grease.

      My first big meal for new hubby was pot roast. I worked with Peg Bracken’s recipe, Sweep Steak, I think it was called. She said to add the potatoes half an hour before the roast is done. I did that, and am still trying to live down the rock potatoes. Still mad at Peg!

      • marta says

        Knowing how Peg Bracken felt about cooking in general (she did publish the ‘I Hate to Cook’ book) I wouldn’t be surprised if you were supposed to use canned potatoes, and that ‘canned’ got left out in editing.

  2. natalie says

    ok, i lost it at sausage fest. hahhahaha!

    the bacon/pancake thing does look pretty tasty though. i usually try to eat them in the same bite anyway if i’m having them together.

  3. lynda says

    Kate, life has changed in so many ways. Cooking today, thanks to the Food Network and the affluence of consumers, has improved so much. My guess is that the “jello” in the artichokes is tomato aspic. Gelled dishes were very popular in the 60’s and 70’s. We can buy fresh raspberries at the stores year round–I remember waiting for the season to start and picking the berries! I would freeze them if I wanted some the rest of the year. We are very fortunate to have so much available in the culinary world.

    • Marvel Anne says

      Lynda, you’re right! The cookbook says “artichokes, halved, filled with jellied madrilene and topped with a slim slice of lemon are beautiful to look at and wonderful to eat.”

      I then had to look up madrilene and learned that it is a consomme flavored with tomato, often served jellied and chilled.

      The author provided no details on making artichoke candle holders or wall art. I guess she figured that we are all crafty.

      • Lynda says

        I do not remember ever hearing the word madrilene. Learn something new every day! I do remember consommé being a popular soup to start a meal. We learned to make it in Home Economics in the 60’s. I also remember consommé being gelled too.

        • marta says

          Jello actually marketed a meat-flavored jello for use in savory dishes. I’m definitely a carnivore, but even though I love savory aspics, the thought of ‘meat jello’ makes me shudder.

  4. Tut says

    Wow, won’t my Mom be surprised to see her recipe box at the top of the article! I chose between that or a recipe that appeared in my hometown’s centennial cookbook:

    Polish Dressing, by Vi Romine

    4 cups dry bread crumbs
    4 eggs
    1/2 cup celery
    1 envelope Lipton onion soup
    1 cup uncooked popcorn

    Mix ingredients, stuff turkey. Bake at 375° for 3 hours. When the 3 hours are up, get the hell out of the kitchen, because that stuffin’ is going to blow the turkey’s rear-end right out of the oven.

  5. Tut says

    I forgot to mention that my Mom sketched all the illustrations for the section dividers in that centennial cookbook, except for one, which my brother did. So that book is definitely a keeper. :)

  6. Lauryn says

    Thanks for the inspiration, Tut! I keep planning on reorganizing my recipe cards and I love that little box.

    Kate, the “jello” looks like roe (fish eggs) to me.

    • Kate says

      Good call Lauryn…my husband actually said the same thing. I’m still not sure that is a “normal” combination! Still looks like Jello to me!

  7. Brian T says

    The “sausage fest” 10 PM cookbook is included in “The Gallery of Regrettable Food,” a graphic-heavy, hilarious tour of these kinds of vintage cookbooks (http://www.amazon.com/Gallery-Regrettable-Food-James-Lileks/dp/0609607820). It is the funniest book I’ve ever seen. I literally thought I was going to have to go to the hospital from laughing so hard. There’s also “Gastroanomalies,” a sequel, plus “Interior Desecrations” (on decor) and “Mommy Knows Worst” “(vintage parenting tips).

    • hannah says

      Hi Brian –

      The Gallery of Regrettable Foods (which I think I found about 6 years ago) is what MADE ME HAVE TO HAVE the 10 PM Cookbook. I still visit that site semi-regularly and I STILL laugh my self silly.

      Have you ever seen his piece on The Gobbler Motel?


      Glad everyone is enjoying my “When It’s Strictly Stag” entry. One does have to wonder Kate….but I think they knew darn well what they were doing. 😉

      • RetroSandie says

        Oh Hannah! I laughed through the whole thing about the Gobbler Motel. I think I’m now hoarse! Thanks for that!!!!! 😀

        • RetroSandie says

          Holy Moly! I have just spent, what, 2 hours laughing at James Lilek’s humor!!!! I HAD to click off his site, otherwise I would sit here laughing like a fool at my computer screen all day and night!!!!! 😀
          (But I’m happy I found him-thanks!!) :)

          • hannah says

            Hi Sandie –

            I think structures like The Gobbler, should not fade into oblivion. Even though it (seems to) only live on through Jame’s site, it’s still a gem to behold. Just for the wild decor we thought was ‘the best!” back then.

            Glad you had a day of laughter. I can’t count how many people I’ve turned on to this site, the guy is FUNNY. I really need to break down and buy one of his books.

      • apsutter says

        Omg…..I laughed so hard at the Gobbler Motel! Whoever made that website is a freakin genius. I can’t believe someone purposally designed a motel to look like that. Especially the crazy pink and purple dining room.

  8. Janet in CT says

    Um, Kate, uploading recipe books and such, you did mean the weekend of Labor Day not Memorial Day?! I knew the summer flew by but not that fast!

  9. Ericka says

    Thanks for posting my recipe accent tile! There are several in the kitchen. Never tried any of the actual recipes (the clam dip is particularly scary), but they’re super fun to look at.

      • hannah says

        What? Clam dip was awesome! It’s the ONLY seafood I ate back in the 70s! Mom would make a batch for the upcoming weekend cocktail party. Good combo, heh? Whiskey, vodka, rum, wine, and CLAM DIP! lol

  10. Mid Century/Mid TN Mom says

    The first recipe card illustration “Another Surprise from the Kitchen” would have been perfect for me and my mother! We also, at times, refer to “Dinner is served when the smoke alarm goes off” :) Exploded peas became the default veggie at family gatherings. LOL We have had LOTS of laughter at my baking adventures, especially the pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving! Side note: I recently found out that no one in the family ever liked pumpkin pie anyway.??? Now they tell me! Loved all the vintage cookbooks and recipes. Fun!

    • Kate says

      Yes we have a lot of fun kitchen blunders in our family!

      I always have (and still do!) like pumpkin pie…I just sometimes find it hard to eat the really burnt parts…that’s what they make cool whip for I guess! :)

  11. RetroSandie says

    Oh Kate!!! I’ve been laughing to tears at your comments on the crazy cookbooks!!! Meat Power! The beans and sausages! Artichokes and jello!!! I had to wipe the tears off the keyboard! LOL Thanks for the laughs!!! 😀

    • Kate says

      Thanks RetroSandie! I did the exact same thing when I was looking through all those cookbook photos and trying to pick which ones to use for the story! :)

  12. says

    This is really funny because I have that 10 PM cookbook (along with many of the other Good Housekeeping books) and my boyfriend and I were just laughing over that beans and weenie picture! Vintage cookbooks are awesome if not for the odd recipes, for the pictures and cartoons.

  13. George says

    Aspic, and any other jello-containing vegetable dishes from the sixties seemed like such a rip-off. Such a trick to play on someone: “Hey look, it’s jello with some fruit in it.” And then, “Yuck, it’s a salty dish with asparagas and green beans or something inside.” What a rip.

  14. Louisa says

    Long day at work, but just read about the duck and the car and the grease, which reminded me of another surprise. My mom was having a lunch to introduce the new minister, and I was bringing gazpacho. It was in a large covered bowl on the floor of the back seat of the car. My parents’ house is on the top of the highest ridge in a hilly town, and as I drove up the steep road to their house, I could hear the soup pouring out onto the floor of the car, and indeed as the road leveled, the soup rolled into the front of the car. My sister was with me, so we drove up a hill so the soup would puddle in the back. We scooped the soup back into the bowl, and lunch was served.

  15. Michelle says

    I’m so sorry I missed this! I have some really fun cook books, but my best is my great-grandmother’s that has a home remedy for asthma – ball up a cob web and swallow it.

    Does anyone have the book that pokes fun at all of the horrible photos in 50’s cook books? I’ve seen the book twice, but can’t remember the title for the life of me…

    • hannah says

      Michelle, the links to that site are towards the top of the thread…you can scroll up or just do a Google search on Gallery of Regrettable Foods – it’ll come right up. :)

  16. Michelle says

    I live in Rochester, near where Jell-o was invented. The Jell-O Museum, in LeRoy is a riot. Some of the recipes are a little… unsettling.

  17. Miss Wynonna says

    Oh my my !!!
    I recall MANY years ago my newly married aunt hosted her first thanksgiving dinner.She went to Eastern market in Detroit and got a fresh killed turkey, brought it home, stuffed it and put in my Grandparents vintage roaster oven………..
    30 minutes before it was done she opened the roaster to find a stuffed turkey skeleton with all the meat having slid off of the bone to the bottom of the roaster.
    Turns out she was not paying attention when she was prepping the bird and instead of using regular seasoned salt, she used seasoned salt/meat tenderizer……She was in tears over it, and all the guests were in tears as well trying to keep from laffing at the situation.

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