Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Vintage Recipe Box

A few years ago, I found this old wooden recipe box at an auction. It is full of  hand-written recipe cards from the 1920's and 1930's. After years of daily use, it now rests humbly on a shelf in my kitchen. Every once in awhile I get it out and enjoy just looking through these cards from another time. My grandmother would have been a young mother then, raising her three boys in a little house on Chadwick Street in Bradford, Massachusetts.

We wouldn't find a category highlighting "Toast Dishes" today but our grandmothers were doing their best to provide meals for their families during the Depression years; toast was clearly an inexpensive recipe starter. Even when I was a little girl, I remember being served dishes like "Chipped Beef on Toast" and "Welsh Rarebit".

And who could forget puddings made with cereal? Here in New England, "Indian Pudding" and "Grape Nut Pudding" were favorites. I'm not so sure about using cereal in soups...

"Putting up" vegetables and fruits from the garden was another way that women living through the Depression stretched their meager food dollars. And who could resist the sweet taste of Watermelon Pickles on a hot summer's day?

I think I might not have minded living back in a time when sweets were "needed daily" and considered an integral part of every menu.

This cake tin is from the 1930's. I love the color green that was used on so many kitchen items at that time. I'm sure it held its share of  "delicate, attractive desserts" .

And "Icings" were so important that they were considered a "food group" in this recipe box. I love that this card compares them to "the trimmings on a dress...not necessary but adding to the general attractiveness".

By the late 40's and 1950's, my mother was starting her family in a more prosperous time...the years following WWII.  Although I was little, I can't remember a kitchen at that time that did not have a set of these four Pyrex bowls sitting next to a white stand mixer. My mother used hers every day.

Mom was still writing her recipes by hand, or clipping them out of Good Housekeeping, Women's Day and Family Circle. And newspapers still had a daily recipe column.

By the time my sisters and I had our children in the 1970's and 80's, Tupperware was the staple in our brown and orange kitchens and bright colored plastic recipe boxes had replaced the old wooden ones. And we could run our recipes through the "mimeograph" machine at school to share with one another...or even "xerox" them. We thought we were pretty high-tech compared to our mothers and grandmothers.

My sister, Nancy, was the baker in our family. She kept the same two recipe albums all along and just kept stuffing more into them. When she passed away in November, the only things I wanted were these two albums...each recipe brings back a memory of her standing at the counter with her can of Tab, telling stories and making baking look easy. Sometimes I just like to run my fingers over a hand-written card she has touched.

Now most of us get our recipes off the Internet and many of us keep our recipes filed on our computers. We have come light years from the days of hand-copying recipes for "Chopped Beef on Toast" and "Grape Nut Pudding". We count points and calories, no longer consider "Icing" a food group, and often grab frozen meals on our way home from work. We've come a long way, Baby!

But sometimes, in a tiny little corner of my mind, I just wonder...what we might missing in our rush to eat fast and stay thin. I wonder what it might have been like to put on a faded apron with rick-rack trim and spend a whole afternoon making "Alice Spencer's Tomato Soup Cake" or "Grace Tibbets' Fort Western Pie" like the woman who once owned my little recipe box did. Maybe that is part of the charm of vintage objects like these...through them we can identify with women from another time, imagining what their lives were like.

And wonder...

I hope you will visit some of the amazing blogs to which this post is linked:
Nifty Thrifty Tuesdays at Coastal Charm
Tuesday's Treasures at My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia
Twice Owned Tuesday at The House of Grace
Wow Us Wednesdays at Savvy Southern Style
Open House Party at No Minimalist Here
Second Time Around at A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words
Vintage Thingie Thursday at the Colorado Lady
Thrifty Thursday at Tales from Bloggeritaville
Time Travel Thursday at Brambleberry Cottage
Show & Tell Friday at My Romantic Home
Vintage Inspiration Friday at Common Ground
Home Sweet Home Party at The Charm of Home
A Few of My Favorite Things Saturday at Bargain Hunting With Laurie


Pam said...

I love flipping through my Mom's old recipe cards. Not that I actually make a lot of it, but it's fun to see how much trouble she went to just to cook dinner. It's so much easier now days. I adore the green cake tin.

Sherry@Back2Vintage said...

What a charming recipe box...those recipes are so interesting. Love your old cake tin, egg beater and pastry wire, but that Pyrex Primary Colors mixing bowl set is the best!!!

Olive Cooper said...

I still love to read recipes on cards such as yours or in a cookbook. I often read old or new cookbooks. I do not cook from recipes that much though!

Betty (picture circa 1951) said...

I enjoyed the trip down Memory Lane with you. That old recipe box is quite a find. I have a few that I've picked up over the years, but mine have recipes from the 50's-70's. I often find old recipe boxes empty, but I look for the ones with recipes. I'm afraid people throw out the old recipes assuming no one would want them, but that's exactly what I want.

I'm new to your blog and I was sorry to hear of your sister's passing. I like the way you're remembering her with this blog.

Linda @ A La Carte said...

This is a very sweet post! I love the recipe box and the categories! I have many hand written recipes from my Mom and other friends and family. I think something is lost in the xeroxed and printed recipes we all share now. Sweet memories! hugs, Linda

Sherry @ No Minimalist Here said...

Hi Cheryl, What cute recipe cards! I still have my recipe box and cards from when I was a young bride. All handwritten of course and passed down from generations. Thank you for sharing the cards at my Open House party.

Anonymous said...

That's a real treasure. It took me back in time. My mom had that set of Pyrex mixing bowls. And I had Tupperware.

Brambleberry Cottage said...

What a wonderful set of vintage recipe cards, Cheryl. I had to chuckle reading some of them - especially the "desserts" card. Guess they didn't realize that what they didn't know could indeed hurt them. Awww, but ignorance is bliss! ;)

Thanks for linking to the party.

Liz @ the Brambleberry Cottage

LV said...

What great vintage treasures you have. I enjoyed visiting your blog and post.

Nana Moon Shop said...

Be still my heart! This post was pure eye candy to me. The recipe cards, cake tin and kitchen utensils are absolutely adorable! Thank you for sharing!

Annie said...

I have recipe cards that at one time belonged to my ex's mother, with notations about who gave her the recipes—usually someone from her church Circle or her Bridge group. I also have recipe cards my older sister wrote out for me when I was first married—good, inexpensive dishes, as well as delicious desserts. They are all treasures to me! Enjoy yours!

MeMeSue said...

Cheryl...I love the box and all the recipes. What a treasure! I also see why you wanted Nancy's used and spattered with the love of her baking. I have an old metal recipe box that has recipes from my grandmother, mom and stuff I have collected over the years. I even have cards with recipes cut out of magazines and glued on to the cards!

Pyrex bowls....I have one and my oldest keeps trying to steal it from me. It goes missing and I find it in her basement apt...LOL It is my most favorite bowl and I'm always on the lookout for them now.

Ann@A Sentimental Life said...

so enjoyed seeing your post. I have my grandmothers recipe box, and I am always pulling out a recipe and using it.

Kathy said...

Hey Cheryl, it's your cousin Kathy...I'm still out here reading away!! Your recipe story brings up a funny story I have to share. As you know, my mom is in a nursing home. My daughter wanted her sugar cookie recipe this past Christmas, so I asked my dad for the book of her recipes. He informed me that he wanted them all back, because "she was a wonderful cook and those recipe's are heirlooms". Well, I got the sugar cookie recipe, and all the other recipes in the book were labeled, "Dora's Apple Pie", "Ann's Stew Beef", Alice's bean dish". She collected these "heirlooms" much later in life...which now explains why we lived on canned ham and ground beef unseasoned (no lie, she browned it, drained it, served it)!

Thanks for the story!
Love, Kathy

Diane@A Picture is Worth.... said...

Hi Cheryl,
Enjoyed this anything old with a history!

Thanks so much for linking to 2nd Time Around!

Into Vintage said...

A very sweet post - thank you! I understand how you feel about your sister's recipes -- I have my mother's very old cookbook that she stuffed with recipes clipped from the newspaper, little notes and her handwritten recipe cards. I may not cook or bake out of it very often but it's still priceless to me.

Debbie@Debbie-Dabble said...

Loving all of these treasures!! Adore the recipes and I love all of your Kitchen greens!! I have the same green handled egg beaters!!


Anonymous said...

Ever since my mother gave me my great-grandmother's cookbook for puddings and desserts, I have tried to imagine her in her kitchen planning menus and directing the activities. I'd love to know what it was really like. Thanks for sharing your treasures and memories, this was a lovely post.

Anonymous said...

My sister has informed me that she gets all the hand written recipe cards from our family. sometimes being youngest does not pay.

Thanks for taking me down memory lane, from pyrex and tupperware, through mimeo and xerox, and into new technology that I will never get a hold on.

Jaymie*Nachole said...

What a beautiful post and blog! I'm a 25 year old stay at home mom and only wish I could've been around in the 40's or 50's. This "modern" world scares me. :-(

Sherry said...

I love this vintage recipe box! The illustrations are wonderful. Such a fun post. Thanks for linking it up!

Liz said...

I love vintage kitchen stuff. My mom always knows that she doesn't really have to ever get rid of anything...She just gives it to me. :)


Patricia Torres said...

aaaawww.. my mom had a very similar recipe box... Wish I can find it now.. You've brought back some happy memories.. thank you!! :-)

Tara Beaulieu said...

I adored reading your post. I just had a long conversation with my best friend last night about how I am in love with the vintage "modern housewife" who whipped up fabulous dinners in her shiny Pyrex all while in a neatly pressed dress and fancy apron. I use my recipe box almost nightly and I love that there are treasured recipes in it handed down from my mother and grandmothers.

One of the most wonderful things my mother did for me at my bridal shower was ask everyone to write out their favorite family recipe for me and she put together my current recipe box and presented it to me. It was a wonderful way to start my marriage (and my journey into learning to cook!)

Visiting today from Time Travel Thursday.

laurie @ bargain hunting said...

Oh what a wonderful find. The graphics and the advice on those index cards are just delightful. Love your vignette with the Pyrex bowls. I'm so sorry you lost your sister. I had to smile about the Tab. I ALWAYS have an open can of Tab on the counter top. Not many Tab drinkers out there. Thank you for linking to Favorite Things. laurie


Oh how we love things from the past! Your recipe box is priceless!
How wonderful it came with recipes included, wow, that is great! I have a vintage one in porcelain from Germany, hand painted too, which I keep in my kitchen with some cut up recipes I use, but not vintage recipes, though. I truly enjoyed your post.
Have a nice weekend.

Esther is not-quite-perfect said...

I have a few of my grandmother's handwritten recipes, which I keep safely hidden away in plastic binders. I think I just might make one of them tonight!
Thanks for the memories!!!!