Roughly two years ago, I started getting into collecting and reading recipe books. Not only just for the recipes, but the stories being told within them through either text or the pictures and illustrations inside. It came about due to a few reasons: I needed inspiration for dinner (an ongoing saga), Susan Branch, and a wonderful blogger and youtuber named Aunt Ruthie.
Aunt Ruthie has one of the most loving and open hearted personalities that I just love! In some ways, she’s become a bit of a role model in terms of what kind of “woman of the house” (or “homemaker”, if that’s what you’d like to call it) I’d like to be. One day, back in 2016, a Fall decor video of hers on Youtube was suggested to me over on the side bar. It was her second video ever! I clicked on it, read her blog (sugarpiefarmhouse.com), and have never looked back. Her main tagline in her blog is “Make home sweet!”, from the cozy fragrances from a home cooked meal on the stove, inviting home decor, and simply showing your family some love. Even her blog is cozy with her sweet images of home, bygone days, and posts about pie.
There are a few things that I’ve picked up from Aunt Ruthie that will stay with me forever! One of those things is embracing my whimsical ideas and not being afraid of voicing them. You’re never too old to be whimsical, I’ve learned! I also noticed how she decorated with cookbooks. I would go to Amazon and save some of the ones I saw in her home on my wish list, feeling inspired. Sometimes it was the subject matter or the beautiful cover of the books that drew me in! I now display my cookbooks, too, which I’ll share in a later post! Also, I’m certain my love of pies grew as I read more of her posts! Another thing she gave me is knowing the artistry of the wonderful Susan Branch.
Finding Susan Branch’s work was a gift to my soul that I never knew I needed! It’s cozy in its own way and has an air of nostalgia and comfort. Susan got her start illustrating and writing cookbooks by hand and you may have seen some of her work floating around on Pinterest. I knew some of the images looked familiar and I had unknowingly pinned a few of her illustrations before I ever knew her name. But in September 2017, I read a blog post from Aunt Ruthie, who had shared an illustration of Susan Branch’s that I fell in love with. It was an almost simple illustration of a pie and a wonderful handwritten story about one of Susan’s sweet neighbors bringing her a potato pie – a real random act of kindness. I printed it out, knowing exactly where I would put it – in my journal. I took a picture of it and shared it on my instagram dedicated to my journal hobby.
A follower said she loved Susan Branch, the name of the artist on the illustration that I hadn’t paid attention to up until that point. I visited her website to learn more about this artist, read her blog, and unexpectedly found a new hero. That December, with any Christmas money that I was given, I bought as many cookbooks of hers through Amazon that I could. And one of my gifts from David was one of her autobiographies, The Fairy Tale Girl, which reads like a grownup illustrated picture book, but also like a diary or talking to a good friend. I fell more in love with her style and who she was as a person. The following year, the books kept coming for any special occasion: for our anniversary, I got Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams (my favorite in her autobiography series and the most read book of my entire life), and for my birthday I got A Fine Romance. In these books, there are always fun cookbook references, quotes, non-fiction, and fiction books that are mentioned, all peppered in as she’s sharing her story and how they inspired her, which then, too, inspired me. In her blog, I also observed how she decorated with books, which I was beginning to do.
But the Christmas season of 2017 started it all with collecting cookbooks, including a few below. I’ve gotten them from Amazon, eBay, and even Instagram! I started looking under the hashtag #vintagecookbooks on Instagram, gaining more inspiration from the covers alone, making my wish list longer than ever! But thanks to a few special occasions and a few “treats” every now and again, I grew my collection.
Originally published in 1989, this is one of my first vintage cookbooks that I ran across very randomly on Amazon. The idea of Depression Era recipes intrigued me! Would any money saving ideas be part of its pages? What did they eat during the depression? I was about to undergo a slight culinary investigation into the past. These depression era recipes have fancy names like Braised Duck, Salmon Croquettes, and Chicken Ala Providence. Recipes that bring the family farm to mind, like Pheasant Pot Roast, Prairie Chicken, Potted Pigeons, and Rabbit Stew. And then your creature comforts like Chicken Pot Pie, Beef Stew, and Fried Chicken. Looking through most of the recipes, I don’t believe they ate all that differently! What I wasn’t expecting were the vintage advertisements and fun quotes throughout the book. I must admit, the cover drew me in, too! It was the first cookbook I bought that felt “homey” just by looking at it, including the patterned boarder.
I found this Virginia bed & breakfast cookbook in an antique shop. Not all that “vintage”, as this was published in 2005, but the idea of recipes from bed & breakfasts in my home state fascinated me! I had a list of 94 of them to even visit if I wanted to! But -side note – some of them are now closed. This cookbook dedicates two pages to each bed & breakfast: the left page showing a blue sketch or photo of the site with a little background and contact information, and the right side is dedicated to the recipe that came from that bed & breakfast. They have a great mix of everything here in this book from breads, muffins, and biscuits, to fancy luncheon and dinner entrees!
I came across this Vintage Betty Crocker cookbook at an antique shop, mesmerized by the idea of advertising to the “busy modern homemakers”. Published in 1954, I thought you would never see a book dedicated to homemakers today. Today, it’s all about the Boss Babes. It was such a contrast to our modern culture that there was no hesitation in my mind that this had to go in my collection. I contemplated on just how “busy” those “modern” homemakers were in the 50’s. What tasks were they doing throughout the day that this Betty Crocker cookbook needed to be published? How is it different than today’s homemaker? To be clear, these aren’t questions of sarcasm, but awe and wonder. The letter from Betty Crocker herself (who is not a real person, in case you didn’t know. I was so disappointed to find that out!), further sealed the deal for this purchase. “Dear Friend, Three times a day, and sometimes more, every homemaker asks herself “what can I serve that my family and friends will enjoy?”. Flipping through the pages, not only are the recipes easy and straight forward, but I enjoyed the vintage illustrations as well, which at times look strangely modern!
By far, this is the oldest vintage cookbook in the collection, published in 1936. I can’t help but wonder how many kitchens this cookbook has seen or how long it stayed in a cupboard or cardboard box. The title alone makes me think of a tiny apartment in the city, succumbed to the summer’s sweltering heat. The book is in great condition considering the age. It gives the reader a whole meal suggestion then tells you how to prepare and serve it, but without measurements. It’s focus is to show “how to prepare a meal so that everything will be ready to serve at the right time, fitting the dishes together from the stand point of time, service, health value, economy, and appetizing appearance”, appealing to the busy business woman – or man – who may have a smaller kitchen to work in.
I’m fairly certain I saw this Betty Crocker cookbook, published in 1958, in an instagram post and immediately looked it up on eBay. When I look up vintage cookbooks on eBay, I look at the pictures ensuring they’re in good condition before I buy. But when I saw this one had an inscription in the front, I thought how sweet it was and only adds to the history of the book. I’ve reached for this one a few times already, following an apple pie recipe that I plan on sharing in the fall.
Still on my Betty Crocker kick, I also found this one on eBay after seeing it in an instagram post. Published in 1959, the cover and the illustrations drew me in! The book gives advice throughout that are great reminders, like “Appetizers served before dinner are meant to whet the appetite, not to satisfy it. They are an introduction to a meal, rather than independent refreshment, and so should be planned to complement following courses.”
This Campbell’s Cookbook, Cooking with Soup, was published in 1968. I saw this at an antique store back in the early Fall, right around the time of year when the idea of soup starts to sound very appealing! But of course this book gives you all kinds of ideas of how to cook with soup, like in casseroles, omelets, salads, and garnishes. The only trouble is that there’s always a chance Campbell’s no longer makes the suggested soup to add to the recipe.
Covers of cookbooks have a way of drawing me in, and this Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book is no exception. I loved the pattern against the red background! This was published in 1950, and was the first ever Betty Crocker cook book! This book is thick and well packed with helpful tips and tricks in the kitchen, plus photos and illustrations. Probably anything you’ve ever wanted to know about cooking is in here!
Jane Watson Hopping is a dear treasure waiting to be discovered! I’ve read two of her books already and adore her style. She mixes old time-y stories of her family with poems, recipes, and illustrations. You immediately feel transported back to “the good ‘ole times” while reading. This was my very first book of hers that I purchased. I saw the cover on instagram and without knowing anything about her, took a chance and found it on eBay. I’m so glad I did because I fell in love! While thumbing through the book, I found a picture of a Christmas quilt someone had tucked inside! How cozy! That’s one thing I love about getting books second hand – you never know what you’ll find!
I found Grandma’s Recipes Cookbook in an antique shop and it was one of the first I added to my collection. This book isn’t vintage, as it was originally published in 2003, but the idea of having a collection of recipes from “Grandma” spanning the 20’s – 40’s was vintage enough for me! Almost any recipe you can imagine is in here – and plenty of good ‘ole fashioned country cooking, too! The book is a compilation of the author’s grandmother’s recipes and her husband’s grandmother. At the very end, there are sweet histories of all four grandmother’s on both sides of their family, along with a copy of a handwritten recipe – the most precious of all!
A World of Good Eating, was published in 1951, has handwritten recipes in simple script and adorable illustrations throughout. After getting into the work of Susan Branch, where she handwrote her recipes and painted her own watercolor images, this felt like a natural one to add to the collection after seeing it on instagram!
This thin little cookbook is another handwritten one with illustrations. Are you sensing a theme here? Ha! I found this one while wandering through an antique store and almost didn’t buy it! It’s a collection of recipes from the Eastern shore of Maryland and Hilltop House Hotel in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, originally published in 1972.
This book by Jane Watson Hopping was the second one I bought from eBay – and it’s autographed! What a little treasure! It was published in 1991, and I love the delicate cover.
This Betty Crocker New Dinner for Two, published in 1964, is basically part 2 of the one I already had (including recycled recipes, which I didn’t realize at the time) but with complete meal ideas. And of course their classic illustrations are again part of the experience!
Another Jane Watson Hopping book done in the same beloved style of stories, poems, illustrations, and pictures. This one was definitely on my reading list this Summer!
I hope you enjoyed learning about my cookbook collection and maybe even found some inspiration among all these pictures and books! If you do, let me know!