Vintage Cooking

I have an odd fascination with cookbooks, old cookbooks. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy current recipes and flipping through the pages of a glossy recipe book and doing the ah’s over the pretty utensils and oh so delectable photography. But there is something about an old, really old, cookbook.

Before I begin, my grandmother is 97 and collected cookbooks. She hated cooking and when she did, it was just horrible—which she will tell you herself. I mean things like baked asparagus (recipe below) with boiled eggs and some cream sauce, tomato aspic, fruit jelly molds with veggies, lots and lots of 3 bean salads.  She was a collector of all sorts of recipes that she never tried and books she never used. I have benefited from her collection.

For example, I am currently pouring over a 1930’s Meals Tested, Tasted and Approved from the Good Housekeeping Institute. I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the recipes and how to plan a formal luncheon chapter. But I am fascinated with the health instructions as well:


Avoiding Food Fads and ‘Diets’ –Some strange beliefs about foods and food combinations have long persisted which are not based on fact. We refer to one on p. 11 as to acid foods producing ‘acidity’ or acid blood. Many still believe they should not eat acid fruits and mild at the same meal, while there are those who are sure that lobster and ice cream at the same meal will make them ill. Many believe that fried foods are indigestible when as a matter of fact it depends upon how fried foods are fried… Bananas have often been listed as an indigestible food but we now know that this is not true provided they are eaten when thoroughly ripe. Vegetarians warn us to go vegetable-wise while a few years ago a diet composed largely of meat had a host of followers. There are still those who advocate a diet of raw food entirely. Others point the way to health through fasting and we have sill one sided ready made diets offered for various ills.”

The first chapters address how to lose weight or how to gain weight, how to cook for children,  how to cook for a whole family, what to eat when going out, left-overs, directions for making coffee, tea and cookery terms….

The first recipes in this 1930’s book are for Milk Beverages and Iced Fruit Drinks:

Chocolate Sirup

1 cupful of boiling water                     1 1/2 cupfuls sugar

1 ounce cooking chocolate                  3 tablespoons vanilla

Add boiling water to chocolate and stir well. Add sugar and boil 3 minutes until thoroughly blended. Cool and add vanilla. Use as needed.

AND this one from my childhood…it is just recently that I have been able to forget the texture of the canned asparagus Parfait and enjoy fresh asparagus. I would be curious if anyone tries this and how it would come out. I know there are still die hard Tomato aspic fans, so it goes to reason this will appeal to someone’s taste.

Mushroom and Asparagus Parfait

2 pounds mushrooms              4 tablespoons flour

1 bunch fresh asparagus OR

2 small cans of asparagus tips (my grandmother used these)

2 hard cooked eggs

8 tablespoons butter or margarine

3 cupfuls milk

1 teaspoon chopped chives

1 1/3 teaspoonfuls salt

1/3 teaspoonful pepper

Wash and stem the mushrooms, reserving the stems for soup. Saute the sliced tops in 4 tbsp. fat until tender about 5 minutes. Clean the asparagus if fresh is used, cut the edible stalks into 2 in. pieces and cook until tender. Meanwhile melt 4 tbsp fat in a saucepan, add the flour and stir until smooth. Then add the mild gradually, the chives, salt and pepper. When well blended and thickened, add the mushrooms, asparagus and sliced hard cooked eggs. Reheat and serve at once. Serves 8

Yums–vintage cooking.


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