Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking

While home for Thanksgiving, my mom told me that, recently, she had found one of her mother’s old cookbooks. As I started paging through it, I couldn’t believe what a gem it was.

There were so many little things I loved about it. There were a few handwritten recipes tucked into the pages, with bits of information on them that made me smile – doodles my grandma made, bits and pieces of grocery lists (such as “Hershey bars for Chuck and Bob,” two of my uncles), and random pieces of information (like the address of  the Greyhound bus station, because my great grandmother often took the bus to visit). I also liked seeing which recipes were particularly well-loved; it was fun to see how my grandma had altered some of them (and to notice the food-splatters indicating an oft-used recipe):

There were also other little scraps tucked into the book – like a grocery store receipt from 1963 (!), recipes torn out of magazines (mince meat cookies? Sounds a little iffy to me…), and a Peanuts cartoon.

I loved seeing these tiny slices of my grandma’s life. They’re all utterly ordinary (even mundane) things, but I got such a kick out of them. It was cool not only to see the things my grandma would jot down, but also to see her handwriting – I love finding scraps with her distinctive writing on them.

Also, the cookbook itself was hilarious! It was much more than straight-up recipes – there were all kinds of tips and tricks on homemaking (for example, how to set the perfect table). And some of the recipes were outrageous – a whole section with all kinds of crazy game dishes, with everything from turtles to elk to mongoose. I also got a kick out of the title – the “Modern” Encyclopedia of Cooking, published in 1951. Though it was no doubt cutting-edge at its time, it’s so retro now that I couldn’t help but laugh.

I was fascinated by this discovery. It’s such a simple thing, but it totally made my weekend. What a treasure.

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