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Vintage Cookbook Collecting Isn't Just About the Recipes

Updated on March 9, 2017
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Thelma is a syndicated newspaper food columnist writing under the pen name of Mayberry Homemaker and former field editor for Taste of Home.

Farm Journal's Timesaving Country Cookbook
Farm Journal's Timesaving Country Cookbook | Source

My inspiration for this article about collecting vintage cookbooks came to me because of a thrift store find I came across recently. While passing by several bookcases full of cookbooks, one of them jumped out to me as if saying, "Take me home!" The price was so reasonable at 25 cents that I couldn't resist. Little did I know what I would find inside this old cookbook.

Farm Journal's Timesaving Country Cookbook

The book is a hardcover, 1st edition printing of Farm Journal's Timesaving Country Cookbook. Published in 1961, it is in great condition considering its age.

Farm Journal Magazine was a periodical printed specifically for farm families. The publishers also printed a series of cookbooks that are still very popular with vintage cookbook collectors all these years later.

The title page of my newest addition to my collection is a sign of the times as it describes the contents of the cookbook as follows:

1,000 recipes and menus to help the busy woman please her family and friends

— Nell B. Nichols, Farm Journal Field Food Editor

Cookbook Mystery

After getting the book home, I discovered this delightful vintage cookbook is much more than 1,000 pleasing recipes as described by the Farm Journal Food Editor. The hidden story lies in the identity of the former book owner. On the inside cover is a handwritten name and address of a lady from Smithfield, Virginia. In addition, several pages have the corners turned down and check marks penciled in next to certain recipes as if giving me a list of the ones she tried and liked. Some of the recipes have notes of changes she made in the ingredients or directions.

The most exciting discovery was a bookmark at page 56 as if it was the last recipe she looked at or maybe it was the one she referred to most often. Amazingly, this is no ordinary bookmark. It is a photograph of a young woman and an older lady dressed in what I would describe as "Easter finery" typical of the 1950s or 1960s. Both are wearing dressy hats and the older woman has on white gloves. On the back of the photo is written simply, "Mama and Me". There is no indication which one of the ladies was the cookbook owner but I like to think that "Mama" was the original owner who made the notes in the book and then passed it down to "Me". That thought just adds to my enjoyment of the cookbook and my desire to try the recipes that "Mama" recommended.

One of "Mama's" Favorite Recipes

As I perused the recipes trying to decide which one to share with you, I realized this would be a difficult decision because they all sounded so delicious and easy to make. The pages are full of treats like Cake Walk Cake, Pink Party Pie, and Raisin Griddle Cookies. Chapter 17 is all about "Food to Meet the Occasion" and has suggestions for what to do when it's your turn to have the club meeting, what to serve when a neighbor stops by for a cup of coffee, and how to bake an informal wedding cake decorated with marshmallows.

As I finished the last page of the cook book, I was still in a quandary as to which recipe to share with you. And then the answer hit me. "Mama" had written on the inside of the back cover "Chinese Sauce page 56". This was the same page where "Me" had placed the picture bookmark. So there was my answer!

Egg Foo Young with Chinese Sauce

  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 one pound can bean sprouts, drained
  • 1/2 cup cooked or canned chicken, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons salad oil

Combine all ingredients except oil. Drop by spoonfuls into hot oil in skillet; spread bean spouts gently with tip of spoon to cover egg mixture.

Cook until the little cakes are set and brown on the edges. Turn and brown on the other side. Add more oil to skillet if necessary as you cook additional patties. When done, drain on paper towels. Place on hot platter and serve at once with Chinese Sauce (recipe below). Makes 10 patties.

Chinese Sauce: Combine 1 1/2 cup chicken broth (or 1 1/2 cups hot water with 2 chicken bouillon cubes added) with 1 teaspoon molasses and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Blend together 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 2 tablespoons cold water; add to chicken broth and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until mixture comes to a boil.


Joy of Collecting Vintage Cookbooks

I'm sure you will agree that vintage cookbook collecting is a fun and interesting hobby. Once in a great while you will come across a book with a special memento or note left by the former owner as if they were leaving it for you to find ... almost like a treasure hunt. I hope you will imagine a special story or circumstance surrounding your unexpected cookbook find and then think of that story each time you use the cookbook. After all, collecting cookbooks isn't just about the recipes. Sometimes its about the story!

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© 2016 Thelma Raker Coffone

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    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 8 months ago from Philippines

      Vintage cookbook collecting sounds like a lot of fun:). Your description of the book you purchased really lets the reader appreciate its value, that it is not just the recipes, but the life of someone who used it. Such a delightful hobby:)

    • MayberryHomemaker profile image
      Author

      Thelma Raker Coffone 19 months ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      Cookbook collecting is great fun but I warn you it takes a lot of space! lol

    • profile image

      BarbaraCasey 19 months ago

      My vintage cookbook "collecting" is quite accidental. Most of the cookbooks I own and like are just... old. Or were my mother's. But now you've got me interested in actually collecting. Thanks!!

    • MayberryHomemaker profile image
      Author

      Thelma Raker Coffone 21 months ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      vespawoolf thank you so much for your compliment!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 21 months ago from Peru, South America

      I also love collecting cookbooks and I enjoyed your story about the interesting cookbook find. It's the people who owned the cookbooks and their story that makes this such an interesting hobby. Thank you for your well written article.

    • MayberryHomemaker profile image
      Author

      Thelma Raker Coffone 21 months ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      Peg glad you are going to try the Egg Foo Young recipe. I debated as to whether or not to feature that recipe as I thought maybe not enough people would be interested in it. But then I couldn't resist since Mama had made a special note of it in the book. Hope you enjoy it!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Oh I do share your joy at finding vintage cookbooks as well as the little treasures inside. The check marks and the notes and recipe enhancements really share the user's discoveries.

      That recipe you shared for egg foo young will become one of my favorites as I often order this at the Chinese Food place where we always eat. Thank you so much. I can't wait to try it out.

    • MayberryHomemaker profile image
      Author

      Thelma Raker Coffone 21 months ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      moonlake thanks for the nice compliment and the follow. I enjoy your hubs also!

    • MayberryHomemaker profile image
      Author

      Thelma Raker Coffone 21 months ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      peachpurple glad you are saving all of those wonderful recipes for your teenager. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 21 months ago from America

      I enjoyed your story about the Farm Journal's Timesaving Country Cookbook. I enjoy old cookbooks also. Great hub.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 21 months ago from Home Sweet Home

      i have 4 cook books, handwritten by me, all scribbles but these are the notes that i know which are good recipes. I will write a new cookbook for my teenager