Vintage Cookbooks

Treasures from the past, leading us home.

Getting my sticky fingers on cookbooks is one of life’s simple pleasures that just never gets old. The cookbooks do, however, and they get sticky too. Ew, I know. But somehow I just don’t mind. Browsing through an old recipe book and coming across a splattered, well-thumbed page is heartwarming. It’s like the  former owner, possibly a long-dead cook, is communing with us – acclaiming – ‘try this!’ It’s a pretty reliable sign that those particular recipes are worth checking out.

Vintage cookie recipes

Once in awhile these old favourites are annotated. Pencilled markings scratch out – ‘use more flour’ or ‘double for family’. To me, this is a form of culinary time travel – I am transported back in time into the kitchen of an unknown, but kindred, spirit where I am invited to spy over their shoulder while they cook up familiar family dishes.


Recently one of my coaching clients offered me a set of  her mother’s old cookbooks. Did I say yes? Oh yes. Among these treasures were:

  • Edith Adams‘ Thirteenth Prize Cookbook, published by the Vancouver Sun for 35 cents in 1950;
  • the Edith Adams Cottage Homemaker Service ‘Casseroles‘  collection;
  • the 1948 version of the Watkins Cook Book;
  • Freezing Foods at Home 1959;
  • Borden’s Eagle Brand Magic Recipes 1946;
  • Christmas Food Frolic by the Snohomish County Public Utility District No. 1 (undated – but extolling the virtues of the all-electric kitchen);

And the jewel of the collection, in my opinion – A Guide to Good Cooking, The Five Roses Cook Book 1938. This is an all-Canadian cookbook and was available by mail for 40 cents and a coupon.

While eager to try out these recipes in my present-day gratefully all-electric kitchen, I am just as as content to sit in my PJs and leaf through the yellowed stained pages imagining my foremothers wiping their buttery fingers on flour-kissed aprons, and turning the same pages. From one to another we travel in our goodness.


Moodling through almost any kind of recipe book is one of my favourite ways to relax and unwind. I experience a sense of timelessness, ease and peace. Dishing in the Kitchen is on a mission to spread this kind of quiet joy. Enter our ‘Take Back the Weekend’ contest to win an overnight getaway. Required: PJs and a willingness to totally relax.

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About Vicki

I’m a coach and consultant and in my spare time I like to cook and play house. I believe happy idleness is a purposeful pathway to a contented life. And I am happiest either in my pajamas or an apron – or both.


  1. LOVE this post, and your writing is so sweet! Old cookbooks do hold a lot … of charm, memories and they do ‘channel’ the past in such a nice way.
    I fondly remember the cookbooks from my mother’s kitchen when the time came and I had to pack up her house – some were in terrible shape as they were very old and well used. I have these tattered volumes tucked away…some without covers! But I can’t part with any of them!

    Thanks for posting – and perfect post from Dishing in the kitchen!

    And I think I have cookbook envy…. hmm 1938 Red Roses cookbook…. that sounds fabulous. I think this could become another great collectible…. oh dear!

    • Thanks Darlene. Cookbook addiction -er- collecting, I mean, (ahem) is a very worthwhile pastime in my opinion. I picked up two very good ones on the last ‘thrifting’ outing, but the ones I posted about are doubly special because they were given so open-heartedly. Like your mom’s well-loved volumes they hold that good old-timey cooking juju.

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