Thrift Obsessions: Vintage recipe pamphlets

No surprise: I’m an enormous Mad Men fan. One of the most compelling elements of the show is the portrayal of how the advertising industry commodified family life in order to sell products. Recipe pamphlets from the ’50’s, ’60’s, and ’70’s are a prime example. I love them for many reasons: because I love food and recipes in general, for the vernacular design and typography, for the frequent embrace of  “convenience foods.” 

A couple of months ago we went to an estate sale on Fairview where the garage was packed full of (literally) thousands of cookbooks and recipe pamphlets. Perhaps the family was in the restaurant business; I have a dim memory of getting some background, but I no longer recall. Anyway, we left with a boxful of books, pamphlets, and a couple of scrapbooks full of clippings. Here are a few of my favorites:
The culinary art perfected to pleasing certainty
The Culinary Art Perfected to Pleasing Certainty , Geo. D. Roper Corporation

Though the typography is pretty fabulous, the title is my favorite ingredient in this pamphlet. It sounds like something Peggy Olson might write, no?

Sample copy: “When the dessert course appears, the successful hostess uses care to make it the most unusual and colorful of all served. This acts as the climax of the entire dinner” (from “Correct Table Service,” p. 32).
Meat recipe rally
Meat Recipe Rally, “A service of National Livestock and Meat Board – Home Economics Department”

Key adjective: “Bohemian,” as in “Pot Roast-Bohemian Style” and “Bohemian Beef Dinner.”

Sample recipe: “Meat Salad Hideaways”:

1 can (12 ounces) canned luncheon meat, finely chopped
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped stuffed olives
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons catchup
12 frankfurter buns

Combine meat, cheese, olives, onion, eggs, mayonnaise and catchup. Mix well. Spread each bun with approximately 1/3 cup mixture. Wrap in foil and bake in a hot oven (400 F.) for 10 minutes. Yield: 12 sandwiches.

Microwave magic
Microwave Magic, “Recipes from Your Oklahoma Peanut Commission”

The mere existence of this publication makes me happy. Recipes include peanut butter and jam cake, chocolate peanut pie, mushroom-bacon pate, “Mexinut Dip,” and “Autumn Mini-Chip Ring.” Who knew there were so many desserts you can prepare in the microwave, and with peanuts to boot? I’m overwhelmed with curiosity and will undoubtably try at least one recipe from the bunch.
Cooking with a surprising difference
Cooking with a Surprising Difference, the Carnation Company (1966)

I’ll have to scan some of the interior pages of this pamphlet, which is chock full of amazing photos in addition to its breathy copy. One example: 

Make it easy on yourself with Carnation cooking! You can pop pork chops or chicken into the oven to cook themselves (and neither one will become dry or tasteless!). You can glamorize a plain hamburger (that is always juice right through cooking), serve an off-the-shelf Shrimp Rarebit, Tuna Chinese Style or a salad and a cool drink … in minutes.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out what the dessert pictured on the front cover is supposed to be. And it looks so appetizing, too….

Let's season with a reason
Herbs and Spices: Let’s Season for a Reason, Cooperative Extension Service, Kansas State University (December 1974)

“Homemakers find time today for a new hobby,” writes Elsie Lee Miller, extension specialist in food science and meal management. The new hobby is growing herbs, and Ms. Miller guides the curious housewife through their many uses. Sample copy:

As an adventure in seasoning, it is most important to consider every seasoning as a potential flavor developer. Learn its use by adding only a soupcon [sic], as an angel scatters stardust.

Indeed. 

Time to leave the world of “Oriental” recipes, stroganoff/romanoff, and food in the shape of logs behind. 

Until next time–happy thrifting.

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7 Comments

Filed under Emily, Thrift Obsessions

7 responses to “Thrift Obsessions: Vintage recipe pamphlets

  1. This might be a good time to mention – actually, I should do a whole post of my own on this – that my grandparents, whose last name is Spry, collect Spry shortening items, including these recipe booklets (featuring the lovely Aunt Jenny). So if you ever see a reasonably priced Spry ad/cookbook/shortening tin, buy it for me and I’ll pay you back, guaranteed.

    Someday (as I am the designated inheritee for all this stuff), my whole kitchen will be full of Spry stuff.

  2. Heavens, that’s tasty. Wonder what the Vermeer Milkmaid would think of being co-opted for peanut recipe duty (she is coming for a visit to our museum, perhaps I will whisper the question when the guards aren’t looking).

    Isn’t that Carnation thing some kind of gelatin mold? And don’t you love how she matches her wallpaper?

  3. Emily Christensen

    I will definitely pick ’em up when I see them, Steph. I know I’ve run across the recipe pamphlets at least.

    Nancy, you must let me know what the milkmaid says. Will she be amused or indignant?

    And yes, the dessert has to be some kind of gelatin creation (I’m just not sure it’s a recipe in the pamphlet). I have literally dozens of handwritten recipes from my great aunt for Jell-O salads and gelatin desserts, and I caught myself contemplating a silicone mold at TJMaxx the other day, but put it back due to the fact that I’ve never liked any food prepared with gelatin. But the recipes are so odd and I do love the molds.

  4. I know it’s supposed to be gelatin, but I think they really just turned a bundt pan upside down and spray painted it. And having grown up in Oklahoma, I’m so glad to finally learn they have a peanut commission–what an imaginative logo!

  5. I just found a pamphlet entitled Our Favorite Meat Recipes Dedicated to The American Housewife by the National Live Stock and Meat Board, 1935. Perfect condition. any idea how much this is worth?

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