The Homemade Cookbook

Filed in Gather Family Essential by on September 11, 2007 0 Comments

I love old cookbooks, and I often browse rummage sales and used bookstores in search of them, and the smaller pamphlets sent out as promotional pieces by various food companies. They can give you a taste of the way things were, back in a different time.

The other day I came across a homemade cookbook. I’ve seen a few of these from time to time, and usually I just pass them over, but for some reason, this one stayed with me. The way these often work, is that someone takes another book – printed or blank – and glues or tapes the recipes on the pages for safekeeping. It’s literal cut and paste, and the reason for them was mostly economics. Why spend money on index cards and a recipe box, if you’ve got a book you don’t need?

The reason I pass them by is that they are often encrusted with glop from past kitchen experiments, or the tape/glue has failed, leaving nothing but yellowish marks where the recipe once was. Sometimes the recipes disintegrate from the simple act of turning the page.

This one grabbed me. It was still intact, the recipes cut from magazines rather than newspapers, so the paper was better. The copyright on the booklet, a small spiral-bound affair, was dated 1935. It was produced by a cosmetics company.

I could imagine a new bride, in the depths of the Depression, compiling this work on a hot summer day, preparing for the cooler weather, when she could really get down to the business of learning to cook.

Or maybe it was a gift – made by a child who wanted to give her mother something special for her birthday/Mother’s Day/Christmas.

I can’t imagine either of these people even considering their homely little object might last 70 years, and wind up in the hands of a stranger who found it lovely, and touching. There’s even a little bit of irony here.

The price on this book in 2006 was 50 cents. I’m pretty sure that would’ve bought a brand-new cookbook in 1935!

Trudy W. Schuett has been online since 1995, and writes fiction and non-fiction in a variety of genres and subjects. She is also an entrant in Gather’s First Chapter Romance competition.

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