Tuesday, June 20, 2006

LIttle Cookbooks

I have been collecting vintage cookbooks for more than 20 years. It all started with my Aunt Nettie, who loved to cook. Her Ukrainian background leaned towards a strong interest in ethnic recipes, but she collected all kinds of cookbooks. In her younger days she used to travel quite a bit, and when she returned from her trips, her suitcases were always crammed with new additions for her collection.

She read cookbooks like they were novels. To her, each one told it's own story, and she amassed a giant collection over 50 years. Her cookbook addiction was legendary within our family, and she received all sorts of cookbooks as gifts for holidays and birthdays.

Sadly, after her death years ago, her collection was broken up and sold for a pittance. I was only able to obtain a dozen or so of her ethnic-based cookbooks (one of my favorite categories). She also saved cooking magazines - Gourmet was her favorite, but she bought many others, especially when she traveled. They were stacked up her stairway, in her second floor spare bedroom, and just about anywhere she could find room for them. There was probably a thousand or more, and they all disappeared after she was gone.

Years ago, she gave me s few of her "lttle cookbooks". That's what she called them. They were the small, soft-cover recipe booklets that were often given away as promotionals in the first half of the 20th century. I thought they were pretty cool, and still have them today. Over the years, I've added some of these to my cookbook collection, especially if they were from the 1920s or earlier. They don't take up a lot of room, and sometimes they have some really odd recipes promoting whatever product they represented.

Above are some of the "little cookbooks" I have in my inventory. The one entitled "101 Prize Recipes" is a hoot - although you can't tell from the cover, it's a promotional recipe booklet from the Postum Cereal Company of Battle Creek, Michigan, circa 1925. You'll recognize this company today as Post Cereal, and is still in production in Battle Creek.

Inside are 38 pages of recipes created by housewives of the Roaring Twenties as part of a contest. Every recipe uses, in some way or another, a central ingredient: Grape Nuts! I didn't realize one could use Grape Nuts cereal in so many different and imaginative ways.

First Prize of $1000 (which was really a large amount of money in the 1920s) was awarded for "Grape-Nuts Omelet California", to Frances Lewis Trussel of San Marcos, California. It's basically a 3-egg cheese and tomato omelet, with a 1/2 cup of Grape-Nuts mixed in. It's a crunchy omelet!!

Other entries in this contest and printed in this booklet include Grape Nuts Bread, Grape Nuts Macaroons, Grape Nuts Lolly Pops (!), Grape Nuts Stuffed Carrots, Grape Nuts Fudge Frosting, and a host of other recipe combinations I would have never thought of.

Guess that's why I really like these fun vintage promotional cook booklets - they usually have some really oddball food ideas!

1 comment:

ChilliGirl said...

Hi, I love those little books. It sounds like I am a bit like her. I love reading cookbooks and have quite a few. Can't have enough of them.