A Recipe for Happiness

Milk is good for you!

Nourishing Milk Drinks

I was champing at the bit waiting for the final edit of Savage Girl to arrive by mail, so I spent some time organizing my collection of cooking pamphlets and community cookbooks.

Star Bacon 1

They are all precious, whether they date from the oh-so-distant 1900s, with one recipe for a “Nice Luncheon Dish” (of sardines) and another for “Plain Apple Pudding,” (starred in pencil by the original owner of the book),

The Porter Church Cook Book 1

Peerless Coal 1

The homespun ’30s,

Homemade Ice Cream 2 copy

The science-minded ’40s,

Canned Fish 1

The ’50s, domain of the housewife

Learn to bake 1

Well, every decade with these pamphlets is the domain of the housewife.

The Housewife's Year Book

And man-the-grill husband. Something for everyone.

Big Boy

A Man's Cook Book

The eerie, disembodied homemakers of pamphlets published by companies like Sunbeam grab me the most, I guess.

Sunbeam Mixmaster 2 copy

Hamilton Beach 4 copy

All this art conveys a plainer time – a time when people actually cooked at home. Betty Friedan’s got nuthin’ on Hamilton Beach.

Recipes reflected a desire for novelty. For expanded horizons. Like this one from the 1939 World’s Fair.

Food at the Fair 1

Here you can learn to make “Venezuelan Hallacus,” and wow your friends.

Canned Fish Recipes suggests the adventurous “Delmonico Salmon in Rice Nests” and crunchy, bread crumb-rolled “Crabettes”.

Some are sneakily subversive. A Lion in the Kitchen: Meats has a passage by a member of the Lions Club of Hudson, Indiana, “How to Cook a Husband,” that advises, Some women keep their husbands in a stew by irritating words and ways; others waste them. Some keep them in a pickle all the lives. No husbands will be tender and good if treated in such ways, but they are extremely delicious when properly managed over a steady heat. After some more of this it continues: Tie him into the kettle by a strong silken cord of comfort; the one called duty is only jute and is apt to be weak. If he flies out of the kettle, he is apt to be burned and crusty around the edges, since, like crabs and lobsters, they must be cooked while alive. Etc.

The fact that companies and organizations used these publications for self-promotion bothers me not a whit.

Guernsey Milk

Or this number from General Foods:

Cookies Galore

Or this, from Armour.

Armour's Ham 2 copy

Armour's Ham Over copy

Some were straight from the heart, self published, with a readership of their church congregation, if that.

Hilltop Housewife

Some are just a mystery (coffee stained in this case).

The Little Book of Excellent Recipes 1

And some are just a gas.

Cookout fun 2 copy


Filed under Art, Cooking, Jean Zimmerman

4 responses to “A Recipe for Happiness

  1. What I really like is some of the anonymous handwriting — on “learn to back” for example: “see inside this cover for the fine gingerbread I made feb 1957”. I’ll have to give her recipe a try some time.


    Pushing coal: Baby Bags for 25 cents. My grandmother cooked on a coal stove; kitchen coal buckets became collectible icons (my mother decorated a miniature one with Pennsylvania Dutch tole designs). And I recall Mother’s MixMaster.

    A few of the covers are signed by the artist; Peter Arno is instantly recognizable, even his signature (which is reproduced on his gravestone), but I couldn’t find anything about GLOVER … the blue sky with fluffy clouds… it reminds me of some WPA works … can’t remember whose or where they are, and I’m probably way off the track, but that’s the way my mind works.

    My own little collection of stylish, old recipe brochures went to the auction house, along with my albums of artist-signed, antique postcards. If I still had them, I’d give them all to you.

  3. And some new ones too. But the old ones never get old, do they?

  4. Hack Attack

    Hmmmmm we’ve seen some of these covers before, no?

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