Tag Archives: vintage cookbooks

Unearthing Sweet Memories With Timeless Recipes

A vintage-style photograph of peanut butter cookies in a ceramic bowl.

Some of my clearest and fondest childhood memories are being in the kitchen with my grandmother and learning how to bake. 

My grandmother and my grandfather immigrated from Mexico to the Maryland suburbs in the late 1950s. Raising six children while learning English as a second language and living as a minority in a very homogenous community could not have been easy for her—but by the time I knew my grandmother, she was, to my eyes, the picture of American suburban domesticity. Alongside our Mexican staple dishes at the dinner table, my grandmother loved to bake sweet treats out of her much-beloved Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. And, as soon as I was old enough to hold a mixing spoon, I would be beside her, learning how to level the flour in a measuring cup and stirring the mixing bowl for bundt cakes. 

When my grandparents retired and moved from Maryland to Texas in 2003, that cookbook was donated–hopefully continuing to aid other amateur chefs to this day. But recently, I found myself wondering about one particular recipe. 

So, I turned to the Internet Archive and was surprised and delighted to find that we have a digitized version of the same Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook I remember so fondly from my childhood. And there, on page 258, was the first recipe I remember baking on my own at eight years old: a batch of Peanut Butter Cookies. Looking at the recipe now, I’m transported back to that time, remembering how proud my grandmother was when I showed her the cookies I’d baked.

I know that among the millions of texts in the Archive, there are countless other memories like this one waiting to be unlocked for numerous patrons. As I was perusing our collections, I stumbled upon some new favorites, including:

The recipe for peanut butter cookies found on page 258 of the cookbook.

I love each of these texts because I know each recipe contained within their pages likely has a story just like my own—beautiful memories of cooking them for and with loved ones. 

I hope you’ll also consider supporting our work in helping us preserve numerous cherished memories on the Archive. To make a year-end donation, please visit archive.org/donate. Thank you to all of our supporters who make this work possible.

Jessica Cepeda joined the Internet Archive’s Philanthropy team as a Major Gift Officer in 2022. She has a passion for engaging with donors and connecting them with opportunities to support the Archive. She comes to the Archive with a decade of experience in nonprofit development and individual giving, most recently at NYU Stern School of Business. She received a BA in the College of Letters from Wesleyan University and loves that her work at the Archive marries her passion for books and technology and her deep and abiding belief in providing free and open access to knowledge. Jessica lives in Brooklyn, NY, which she has called home for the last ten years. Outside of her work for the Archive, she enjoys traveling, reading, cooking, and exploring the city with her dog, Harry.

Vintage Cookbooks

Our Cook Book and Home Economics Collection has many gems, and a few are highlighted below.

Pilgrim Cook Book

“Stewed chicken without mashed potatoes, and pork without apple sauce loose half their zest.” This is according to the Pilgrim Cook Book published by Chicago’s Pilgrim Evangelical Lutheran Church Ladies’ Aid Society in 1921. With 700 recipes, you can find Sausage in Potato Boxes (p. 31), Blitz Torte (p. 123), Cough Syrup (p. 130), and Sauerkraut Candy (p. 145).

If you’re stuck at home with a sick person, you might want to check out Food for the invalid and the convalescent published in 1912. If Beef Juice (p. 19) and Meat Jelly (p.26) don’t make your ward feel better, you might want to try the Cracker Gruel (p. 33). In case you didn’t realize, “Vegetables and fruit, while they do not contain much nourishment, are necessary to prevent some diseases.” And the authors would also like you to know that, among other things, beer and pickles are bad for children.

Betty Crocker Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for boys & girls (1975) shows kids how to prepare all kinds of nifty meals and snacks, including Pigs in a Blanket (p. 112), Three Men In A Boat (p.123), Cabage Wedgies (p. 163), and Ice Cream Cone Cakes (p. 18).

The 1906 book A bachelors cupboard; containing crumbs culled from the cupboards of the great unwedded has a great many pieces of wisdom to impart along with its recipes. Among them: “The day of of the ‘dude’ has passed and the weakling is relegated to his rightful sphere in short order” (p. 2). Once you’re done laughing at the intro, try a saucy recipe like Bed-Spread For Two (p. 75) – be sure to turn to page 76 and read the beginning of the recipe for Chilely for a little giggle. Then move on to some more manly recipes like Indian Devil Mixture (p. 78), Hot Birds (p. 83) and Finnan Haddie (p. 99). On a more sober note, you can read about some of the San Francisco restaurants that were destroyed during the 1906 earthquake starting on page 85.

And finally, you can cook just about anything in a paper bag, including Frog Legs (p. 53), Bacon and Bananas (p. 70), and Omelettes ( p. 88). Check out the 1912 cookbook Standard paper-bag cookery for more ideas.

— Alexis