We are living in an age of Technology. We have a vast pool of information at our fingertips. You can ‘ask Google’ pretty much anything. You can find word definitions and correct spelling, GPS directions, and mingle on the various social media platforms. The list of options is endless! Most of us also have personal computers full of digital files that contain things like photographs, important documents, photos of family and friends and even your favorite recipes. If you enjoy a special dish at a certain restaurant, you can usually find a recipe online, that allows you to make it at home. If you’re bored with your normal dinnertime routine, jazzing things up with a new dish is just a click away.
As easy as it is to find those delicious recipes online, there was a time when you had to share recipes in a much more intimate way. Recipe cards and cookbooks, a newspaper clipping, or a magazine pull-out were what we treasured in the kitchen! To this day I can remember giving and receiving recipes from dear friends and family members. Every recipe I gave or received had a memory attached. A bridal luncheon where the chicken salad was divine, or my husband’s favorite corn bread recipe, from my Mother-in-Law. My best friend’s, Grandmother’s mint iced tea! Sometimes, a church group or a junior league or even a class full of children would put together a cookbook. I can remember my mother and the ladies from the Sunday School groups, compiling a cookbook that contained recipes for all those delicious dishes we enjoyed at the churches monthly, Sunday Social, potluck dinners. I also remember when my girls were in elementary school, they contributed to classroom recipe books, where the kids would all bring in their favorite recipes and the teachers would put them all together. Along with selecting a picture to add to it, each child received recognition for their entry at the bottom of the page containing their contribution. They always wanted to use my grandmother’s hand-rolled, from scratch, chicken and dumplings recipe.
There is nothing quite like flipping through vintage cookbooks! Some recipes are simply timeless classics, others are best forgotten, like the 60’s and 70’s trend to suspend anything and everything in a gelatin mold. I have a collection of vintage cookbooks and I really enjoy looking at the pictures almost as much as the actual recipes. I always check out the background of the pictures. It is fascinating to see table settings, china patterns, and even the wallpaper that they used.
My very favorite recipe book is a tattered old spiral notebook with torn pages, stained with drips, smears, and fingerprints. The pages are so worn on the edges, the paper looks frayed. Inside there are dozens of family recipes, hand-written, on little recipe cards, that have been taped onto the pages. My grandmother had little tin boxes, decorated with hand-painted flowers, full of those little cards. At some point, mother put the ones that grandmother used the most, into that spiral notebook for easier access. Sadly, I am not sure what ever happened to those little recipe card tins, but this old notebook has many, many miles on it.
There are more than just the recipes in that old notebook. On those tattered pages, I get to see my grandmother’s handwriting. I also see the friendships she shared with others, in the cards given to her. These too were hand-written, perhaps after a potluck gathering down at the church on a Sunday, long past. She thought those dishes were worthy of serving to her family, and I am sure she shared more than a few of her own in return. During those days, one of the greatest compliments you could pay to the cook, was to ask her to share the recipe of a special dish. Those cards were very carefully written out by hand, and proudly given out to anyone who asked.
To exchange recipe cards was such a lovely tradition and one that doesn’t happen much anymore. I guess technology is here to stay, and the benefits are undeniable, but some things are sadly lost, like the personal touches of hand-written recipe cards. So, I will treasure this old notebook, and keep adding to my vintage cookbook collection. Both help me to stay connected to the many creative and fascinating women of the past.