COOKBOOK CULTURE (+ magazines)

This page is dedicated to a granddaughter born in 2003, who has now already gotten a 2-year Culinary Arts Pastry degree.  How time flies!  And because 1500 miles separates us, she's never been at my house to get to rummage through & learn of alllll the "stuff" of the baking world from throughout my mother's (a saver) & my lifetimes.  

So, not only for my granddaughter, but for all people who are interested in 1) the American culture of baking history, 2) old cookbooks & recipes, 3) the influence immigrants had on our baking culture, and 4) how our grandmothers lived "in their day" (i.e. wondering what resources they had for baking in their wood-burning stoves), this is just a sketch of some of what I know which began by learning from my mom.  Culinary students, food writers, etc., in the various regions of the country could do entire research studies on which cookbooks & magazines had the major influence on the Baby Boomers living in their state area & could have many additions to this website info page.  

Also, I am going to include what I know of the main "women's" & some other magazines during the 1900s which included recipes.  Magazines could cover the various foods from the many different nationalities throughout the entire country because subscribers were country wide!  It was an affordable way for women in the home to learn of new recipes for variety.  That's why magazines have had such a great impact on our food culture.  I am not a "schooled/professional" expert in this subject, but this will be a jumpstart of some of what's been in the past 100 years, based on what I've learned during all my years.  So, to help younger people know some of the past related to their food interests today, & for anyone in general to have this kind of knowledge, this can be a beginner's guide & then you can continue to discover according to your own personal interests. 

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 Just realize that there are 10s/100s? of 1000s of "cookbooks" today.  Years ago I read that early on, Food Network has a resource library of 40K!  You can do a "search" & type in all sorts of "giving away ..., donating ..., collecting ..., de-cluttering ..., how to rid myself of ..., letting go of "COOKBOOKS," & read for hours & days about people wanting to know what to do with all the cookbooks they've accumulated through their decades!  Some years back I read an article where a lady had "a precious cookbook collection" of 400 "treasures" from over many years of her life, & she donated them to her local library in belief that they would become part of a preserved archive of cookbooks (some evidently quite old).  Some time later she read a local library notice that there would be a book sale of 400 cookbooks.  She said she had ALL SHE COULD DO to NOT go back to the library & buy every one of her books back!

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Now, if you do want to begin your own resource - collection - shelf - or "library" of older, or another book category, try to first narrow it down to the subject area you're most interested in because even the general area of "baking" is overwhelming within the "food/cookbook" genre.  Or set a limit & when you find "just one more," can you get rid of "one other!"  Ask yourself about your "need" vs. "desire" vs. something else.  What's your objective?  I'll read food books & recipes like some read novels, & I've learned much that way.  Also, ask what fits into your lifestyle?  If you have an empty wall where you can build floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, & "the hunt" for a specific category becomes a life-long love, & you read them, go for it :)!  But will you also be able to let them all go if need be (like moving)?!?  If you only need cookbooks for your own cooking/baking, a dozen or 2 "basics" will probably set you for life.  OR if you have 5-10 magazine subscriptions which have recipes, you'll have all you'll need for a month of new menus.

Also, if you do subscribe to food & what used to be thought of as "women's" magazines, the latter which have a recipe section, will you be able to tear it apart & keep & "file" only the recipes you might like to make someday, & throw the rest of the magazine away?  (I have some boxes in the garage from twice cleaning out Mom's houses, which are filled with tear-out pages of her magazines from the 1930s through mainly the 1970s.  (I'm waiting for this National Bread Museum to exist "on land" so there's a depository for those boxes!  I keep thinking "history!")

So next is the Q - where to find "what you'll consider to be a treasure . . . and at a bargain price."  Thrift shops/Second-hand stores today are amazing because we Baby Boomers are moving (or dying).  We keep hearing that the "younger/adult children" don't want anything they aren't using.  (NOTE:  Make a list of all these places in your area & gradually check them all out to see what their price range is, so you know.  Some stores in my area have a "many dollar" tag on each.  But some have a flat $1-2 hardback or 3/$5, & 5/$2 soft cover.  Some - 40¢ each.)  

The other great bargain-price places are usually garage sales, church rummage sales, library sales, & sometimes "salvage" placesAlso, spread the word amongst family & friends that if anyone they know is moving or has any OLD "cookbooks" that they're getting rid of, you'd like them.  That way you can go through, pick & choose, & pass on (like to the local library sale, thrift shop, or in your/someone's Little Free Library).    

The next "bargain or not" price level is at estate sales, flea markets, used book stores, & eBay & that whole world.  Beyond that are retail bookstores & elsewhere where you're paying the retail price.

I believe it's good if every young person, going out on their own, has 1-3 of the old, what I call "spiral bound," softcover cookbooks from community groups, usually sold as a fund raiser.  All the recipes were contributed by people of that community group & were actually made & loved by the contributor.  The recipes are usually quite simple & basic, made with common ingredients.  The downfall, most younger people would say, is that there are no photos.  If you want that, look for the older Taste of HomeAll Recipes, Food Network, etc. magazines & their "annual" hardback cookbooks, or other "women's magazines" which usually have photos with their recipes.

Enjoy the read!  It may be enough to "know," & not get into any of the "have" - - unless it's Mom's or Grandma's with their hand-written notes :).  My Mom's several cookbooks are also personal diaries w/names, dates, & happenings!!

This was published in England, but known in the U.S.  BOOK OF HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT Edited by Isabella Beeton 1859-61; The 1986 reprint edition, below, was from a 1982 printing. (£4.95 in England = $7.50)  In 1861 when the book was 1st published, 60,000 copies were sold.  By 1868, 2 million had been sold!

In reading about cookbook history, there may often be references to Mrs. Beeton's book.  She was in England.  There  was no such thing as electricity.  The Title page says the book covers information for the "mistress, housekeeper, cook (all the recipes), kitchen maid, butler, footman, coachman, valet, upper & under House Maids, Lady's Maid, Maid of All Work, Laundry Maid, Nurse & Nurse Maid, Monthly – Wet - & Sick Nurses, etc., etc.  Also sanitary, medical & Legal memoranda; history of the above entities connected w/Home Life & Comfort.  Sounds like Downton Abbey, right?

The Settlement Cookbook - Mom's in the 1930-40s

Up through the mid-1900s, Mom had 3 main cookbooks.  It was also her way (& other women) that if you wanted to keep another recipe, you wrote it somewhere inside one of your bound cookbooks.  Somewhere in the 1950s-60s, 3x5" or 4x6" index cards were also used for extra recipes.  In fact, 1 of only 2 wedding gifts I still have are the 4 x 6" index cards on which an aunt typed some of my grandma's recipes & gave me in a wooden recipe box.  

Better Homes & Gardens ~ 1930+

Better Homes & Gardens began as a magazine in 1922 under a different name, & was changed to BH&G in 1924.  The 1st cookbook was published in 1930 - the 1st style of a 3-ring binder,.  It was updated in 1933, & included wartime adjustments in the 1943 edition, which was the first red & white plaid-type cover; although, it's said that the 1st "checkered" was in 1952.  A million cookbooks were sold by 1938, & 34 million by 2015.  For a read on the history, see these sites:

Joy of Cooking - 1931

Although this is a photo of a huge 1987 copy (43rd printing) of the 1975 hardback edition, my original was a paperback like my Fanny Farmer, only the Joy one was thicker.  Again, it was a "go to" for almost everything under the sun!  I used both of these 2 paperbacks many times, over & over, for "basics."  One source says over 20 million copies "are in print."  

Baking Classes on the Radio - 1932

Around WWI time frame (U.S. soldiers involved mid-1917-Nov. 1918), many middle class families could afford a radio.  Prior to that it was just newsprint.  Amongst my mom's papers I found this 1932 Baking Book in which the General Foods Company gave recipes "over the air" on Tues. & Thurs. 11:15 A.M Eastern Daylight Saving Time, and 9:15 A.M. Central Standard Time.  Now what do you notice about that info?  First, there was "Daylight Saving Time" (singular) which began in 1918 & at which time the 4 time zones were created.  Second, possibly not all states in the "Midwest" were on Daylight Saving Time.  If the recipe pages were sent "through the post," a stamp was 1.5 or 2 cents at that time, which the radio must have paid, as they'd send free booklets after you wrote requesting one.

WWII days - 1940s

WWII seemed to have been enveloped by everyone throughout the entire country.  To "Buy War Bonds" was quite often the cancellation mark on postage stamps, in newspaper & magazine ads, on the radio, on "propaganda" posters, etc.  The country went under "rationing" for sugar, coffee, meats, fats (including butter), canned goods, cheese, and canned milk.  By "canned milk," it meant evaporated milk, when diluted with some water, was a substitute for cow's milk.  Before, after the War, & into the 1950s, evaporated milk was used as baby formula.  In the website below, it says, "Propaganda posters urged Americans to plant "victory gardens" and can their own vegetables to help free up more factory-processed foods for use by the military."
In the larger sense, rubber, tires, gasoline, and shoes came under rationing regulations, as well as paper.  Therefore, my mom glued cut-out recipes from magazines on a child's 3-ring notebook school assignment papers after they were graded, & made her homemade recipe book (next item).

Mom's Homemade Recipe Book

Magazine recipes, recipes on food product containers, recipes in the local newspaper, recipe fliers & pamphlets given out by food-product companies for advertising, and such got glued onto the former school assignment papers in a 3-ring notebook.  Every item that came into one's hands went through a mental "Can it be recycled? process.  I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin from the mid-40s to the mid-60s, & almost all of our vegetables were grown in a garden & canned; a hog, a cow, & chickens were butchered each year & in the freezer; all baking was from 50# cloth sacks of store-bought flour in the "flour bin;" cherries were picked on a 1-day drive to Sturgeon Bay - Door County area where we filled milk cans; black berries were picked in a woods; grapes grew along a fence beyond the back yard; jams were made from crab apples in the front lawn & choke cherries on the other end of the 80 acres; applesauce from some other apple trees here & there by fields & pastures; & on & on.  Milk came directly from the cows, & a slip of paper to the milkman delivered however much butter & cheese the next morning, cost deducted from the milk paycheck.  It was a VERY financially tight life.  But we never thought we were hungry.  The bed coverings with fluffy handmade quilts kept us warm even though you needed to scrape off the frost & ice on the inside of the barely heated upstairs bedroom windows to see what the day looked like in the morning.  We were happy.  We got to go to school (by a school bus).  

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