Whatever happened to …

… cookbooks?

Thanks, Sheila Stewart for the idea for this post.

 I also thought… “whatever happened to cookbooks?”  So much great stuff online, but I can’t part with my ol’ cookbooks and scraps of recipes in a file box …

I’m glad to hear that Sheila has her ol’ cookbooks.

This brought back a memory of one that was always in my mother’s kitchen.

Screenshot 2018-03-17 at 10.16.22

Thanks, Patrick Q., Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The one that was in our kitchen certainly wasn’t in this great shape.  I recall it as being really run through the mill with things spilled on it, the recipes which are held in place by a three ring binder ripped, and all kinds of handwriting on the pages.

In fact, I remember someone gave her a brand new one as a gift so that it would be in better shape.  But, she never used it.  I think the key was in the handwriting that was on the original book.  How could she give up all that wisdom and revision to these recipes?

Today, my cooking doesn’t require this level of sophistication.  For me, it’s a matter of reading the instructions before I put whatever i’m cooking into the microwave.  Or, to keep opening the lid to the BBQ to see if all the smoke is an indication that things are done.  Around here, my wife who does the gourmet cooking, has one that she keeps close by.

Screenshot 2018-03-17 at 10.26.09

You’ll see that it has handwriting on it as well.  Her world famous Apple Crisp recipe is on page 97.  The book was actually put together by the parents’ group at the school and sold as a fundraiser.  My youngest, jealous of the use of the book, is responsible for writing in her own school since we moved before she had the chance to go to Colchester North.

In addition, we do have a recipe box that sits on top of the stove where my wife occasionally shares recipes with others, notably her hairdresser.  There will be the occasional new menu pulled from a Facebook post or an internet search after experiencing a great meal when we’re “out” for a meal.  Any way recipes get there, it’s full of good stuff; those that know me know that I haven’t missed too many meals.

Generally though, recipes are for special occasions and meals.  The day to day stuff is committed mostly to memory or on the side of the box if I’m cooking.

The timing for this post is just perfect.  We have a new recipe for a St. Patrick’s Day dinner.  It involves cabbage, corned beef, potatoes, and onions.  Our house is going to smell nice!

For a Sunday, what are your thoughts about cookbooks?

  • Where do you turn for inspiration for new recipes?
  • Do you remember the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook?
  • How about a Betty Crocker cookbook?  Any other?
  • Do you share recipes with others?
  • How about using the internet or social media to get new cooking ideas?
  • Are you really modern and just ask Cortana, Alexa, Google Home, or Siri for directions when you’re whipping up that meal?  Do you ever wonder if you do a search for “Apple Crisp” whether they’d all return the same recipe?  Maybe we need to have a cook off!
  • Do you have a favourite recipe that you use over and over that you originally learned from a cookbook?

I’d be interested in your culinary memories and you might get a request for your favourite recipe from Sheila if you share something that looks pretty good.  My secret is that you can make anything tasty if you add enough garlic.

Please share your thoughts in the reply below.  This series of Sunday posts is largely crowd sourced and if you’ve got an idea, please share it in thing Padlet.  All of the previous posts are available from the Menu at the top of this blog or by clicking here.

Author: dougpete

The content of this blog is generated by whatever strikes my fancy at any given point. It might be computers, weather, political, or something else in nature. I experiment and comment a lot on things so don't take anything here too seriously; I might change my mind a day later but what you read is my thought and opinion at the time I wrote it! My personal website is at: http://www.dougpeterson.ca Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dougpete I'm bookmarking things at: http://www.diigo.com/user/dougpete

11 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …”

  1. Oh, there’s something wonderful about cookbooks. As much as I look recipes up online, I’ve still held onto some special cookbooks from my mom and grandma. The pages are torn, but the recipes are still readable. I wonder if it’s like a desire to read an actual “book,” even with all the e-Readers out there. Is there something special about the feel and flip of the pages? Plus, you can hand down a recipe book among generations, but not the latest internet recipe. What will this generation have to pass on, and how will they do so? Somehow via a Facebook post doesn’t seem the same. Thanks for giving me something to think about this Sunday morning.


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  2. Thank for sharing your thoughts, Aviva. I like the connection to the longevity of the paper cookbook and the tradition of handing it down through generations. In the present, I can see the Facebook thing but you have to wonder if it will have the enduring of a paper document. The passing of hand written recipes is interesting as well. Some are printed but others are written in cursive. Will the future student be able to read them? Sadly, some do fade with age and, around here, it’s not uncommon to see them rewritten before they disappear beyond recognition.

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  3. And once again, you make a great point, Doug, about the need to read cursive even if you can’t write it. Our Kindergarteners are working on this as we explore some different fonts together. Some can already read it quite fluently. Yay!! Years from now, maybe they’ll be able to access that recipe from a distant relative. (I realize this isn’t the only point you made in your reply, but I just had to respond to it. 🙂 )


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  4. I am a cookbook queen! I actually use a recipe most nights of the week, even if it’s just to figure out what I might tweak. The Joy of Cooking is our “reference” when I need to try a new technique, and my grandmother’s Lutheran Ladies cookbook is the motherlode, with her hand-written notes, as well as clipped recipes added in by both of us. I use the internet a lot, to the point where I should really get one of those iPad cookbook stands. If an on-line recipe becomes a standard, I will copy it onto an index card, and put it into the recipe box. Already thinking about the best way to put all of the “house favourites” into one format when Mr 16 heads away in a year and a bit.

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  5. That’s awesome to hear, Lisa. There’s a real thread (hopefully you read David Garlick’s comments on Twitter) about writing in the cookbook to make a good recipe great.


  6. I love cookbooks! Even though I often search for recipes on pinterest and epicurious there is something about a cookbook, especially one that has been well-used and well-loved, that has an emotional resonance that can’t be replicated online. Recently we’ve been packing up everything in my parent’s home and preparing for tenants. One of the things that all the granddaughters wanted was at least one recipe card of Gramma’s, written in her elegant cursive and stained from years of use. Those recipe cards brought back so many memories of baking, making jams and jellies, canning pickles, and time spent in the kitchen with Gramma and all the cousins. I also took cookbooks that belonged to my maternal grandma, and found the recipe she used to make the wedding cake for my mom and dad’s wedding. I may never bake a wedding cake, but that recipe is priceless.

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  7. We have lots and lots of cookbooks. The one referenced the most was the one my wife’s mother used which has a lot of handwritten notes and recipes in it. Recipes we find elsewhere go into a Word document that is updated regularly with favorites we find online or elsewhere. Included in that document is some family recipes from my family including one from my grandmother for a special Norwegian Christmas cookie.

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  8. Beyond being a school principal, my passion and Alter-ego is Rene, PItmaster of Hog BBQ and host of Backyard BBQ Battle on Eastlink TV. Cookbooks are awesome. I have a few dozen in my bookshelf. I love to hold and dog-ear pages. Strangely enough, Ive started photographing the recipes I like most so I can file them in my computer for easier access. I’ll admit though that most of my inspiration is now taken from online. Pinterest, various blogs, and foodie facebook pages are always feeding me fresh recipes and ideas for me to build upon.


  9. Hello, all! Doug, I am glad my rambling thoughts provided a topic for this “series” of yours! I didn’t expect it to be such a conversation starter, but then… food 🙂

    I enjoyed how you took the topic further and I am really enjoying the contributions of others!
    Yes, my cookbooks and recipes are full of notes about additions, omissions, and substitutions, outcomes, etc! There is a joke in our family about how a few of us (heh, me included) make something using 3 different recipe variations of the particular dish. Creativity!

    I don’t have Doug’s Better Homes and Gardens one, nor a Betty Crocker one. I do have the Better Homes and Gardens “Beef Recipes”. I have a few from it that I use/rotate over and over. I used it when I was away at university as it was one that my roommate left behind for me.

    My husband says that the Fanny Farmer Cookbook is his cooking “bible”. We have a beat up paperback version that is held together by rubber bands now. We bought larger hard cover ones recently – one for us and each of our adult children. My husband always advises, “It even tells you how to boil eggs and make hot dogs in that one!”

    I am curious about the famous apple crisp recipe now! The one I make every fall is from Rose Murray’s “Comfortable Kitchen Cookbook” and it is called “Wonderfully Satisfying Apple Crisp”. How can you not try a recipe called that?! I have a note beside the title, “It is!” Those cookbooks put together by a school community are often the best – we have a number of them, each with some favourite “go to’s”.

    I search for a few specific recipes/dishes or baking ideas online at times, but I mostly stick with my true and tried recipes and cookbooks almost every day (except when my husband cooks on the weekends!). It always makes me stop a moment when I come across the handwritten recipes in my file box that are in the handwriting of my mom and grandma who both passed away in the same year some time ago. Their recipes were distributed well amongst family members!

    I am interested in the Norwegian cookie recipe, Alfred! I have to do my share of both Scottish and Scandinavian baking at Christmas too 🙂

    Do people still give cookbooks as gifts? I better write my own related post 🙂


  10. Sheila:
    I got my first joy of cooking as a wedding shower gift. It was partly a joke gift, because the giver had received it from her mother-in-law when she got married, and her attention was drawn to the fact that it included instructions for how to cook squirrel! My current edition is hardcover, and we won it the day we moved into our new house in Peterborough – which seemed like a good omen!

    I’m going to have to write my own blog post as well – one of the true treasures of my cookbook shelf (yes, they take up a shelf – two, in fact) is a beat-up, cardboard covered, mimeographed cookbook created by the students in my grandmother’s Grade 2 class somewhere in Windsor a very, very long time ago. There are some true classics in there! Maybe some year I’ll have my class try and cook our way through – and then create our own – I’ve always wanted to publish a class cookbook. Maybe each kiddo gets a blog post, and we collate them into a Flipboard?

    Doug – because I’m not on Twitter, I didn’t get to see the thread around this post – may have to check it out in two weeks!

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