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Collecting Vintage Recipe Books
Many people love to collect vintage recipe and cookery books, and the yay retro! online vintage shop always tries to keep a selection in stock to buy. An invaluable source of down to earth and cordon bleu cookery, they are fun, affordable and packed full of cooking history.
above... a series of mini cookbooks released by Stork margarine in the 1960/70s.
Many famous food brands have published recipe leaflets and books over the years and these reflect the times in which they were written. Often people needed to collect labels from the foods and send them in to redeem their free book. Other times you would fill in an application form on the back of the packet and send a money order or cheque with an SAE (stamped addressed envelope) to receive the book back. Such books and leaflets are now highly sought after by vintage collectors who wish to find out about the foods people used to eat, and to try recipes which were being used by their Mothers, Grandmothers and Great Grandmothers back in the day.
Foods such as pineapples and avocado which seemed glamorous in the 60s and 70s are now common place, and other foods which were eaten weekly in the 40s, 50s & 60s such as tripe and offal are rarely cooked by families nowadays.
It's really interesting to see how foods were presented in cook books, these range from lavish, ornate creations which can turn the stomach somewhat today (eg. the fish below found in Mrs Beetons cookbook) to very simple recipes which can seem a bit silly to us now (e.g the fruit salad served in a pineapple above). It's worth remembering that after the war being able to easily get a pineapple at the local shop was still completely amazing and also quite rare, so serving one at a dinner party was luxury itself. I grew up in the 60s and 70s and tinned pineapple in syrup was my Mum's choice, I can't ever recall eating a fresh pineapple back then.
One of the fabulous things about vintage recipe books aside from the wealth of cooking knowledge and recipes is that they offer us wonderful illustrations and photos. These tell us so much about the styles in vogue at the time. Below is a delightful pastel illustration showing the desserts that can be made with a Kenwood Mixer. Some of these would seem to tax all but the most accomplished chef, but were there to inspire the housewife to hold a glamorous dinner party. This was something that many couples did with regularity - people often did not eat out as it was simply not affordable to most.
Personally, I love cartoon illustrations like the one below from the 1970 Weight watchers book I have for sale. Fabulous illustrations like these can be found in many cook books of the time. It's worth looking out for children's cookbooks too if you like this sort of thing. One very collectable book is The Ladybird We Can Cook Book which is packed full of amazing pictures.
The photos in vintage recipe books show us not only the kinds of food being cooked, but the way tables were laid and the kinds of table and kitchenware that people aspired to own and use at the time. In the 70s pottery and earthenware were favoured as can be seen in the book below. This was often twinned with gingham or flower power tablecloths.
At the time people cooked a lot of meat, pastry and cakes and used a lot more cream than is recommended today! With people working with their hands and being far more physical in the workplace, the calories were soon burnt off! I can recall 100s and 100s of men cycling home from the steelworks in our local town at teatime for instance.
Making cakes at the weekend for Sunday tea was the norm in many homes, and housewives would swop recipes with one another keeping them in folders and recipe boxes such as the one below. It's great to find something like this as you can have a go at someone's handwritten recipe knowing that it was one that was loved and shared.