What’s In a Cookbook? (other than the obvious)


Music – “Old Note Found in a Book” from The Old Photo Box by Lior Navok. Released: 2008

In my years of cookbook collecting, I have purchased probably somewhere in the neighbourhood of 80% of them secondhand, from thrift shops, flea markets, garage sales, or people, who have heard I collect cookbooks and want to get rid of theirs.

What has intrigued me over the years is the number of cookbooks I’ve purchased, which contain little treasures inside of them.  Family photographs, handwritten recipe cards, funny bookmarks (and some downright embarrassing!), sticky notes in every colour in the rainbow, bobby pins and paper clips as bookmarks, Christmas cards, business cards, personal letters, postcards in foreign languages,  pressed flowers and dried leaves….the list is endless.  Even a fossilized piece of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum, slightly brittle, but it left a faint yet pleasant scent on the pages, appropriately in the dessert section.

Newspaper clippings with recipes from very old newspapers are a frequent find and it’s always fun to turn the clipping over to see the advertisements on the reverse. 

Even if the date is not on the clipping, you can get an idea of how old it is:  I can tell you with some authority that Maytag washing machines no longer sell for $23.00 and a standing rib roast is significantly more than $.22 per pound now!
This ad for Maytag dishwasher was on the back of an old newspaper clipping recipe

This ad for Maytag dishwasher was on the back of an old newspaper clipping recipe

For a time, I saved all of these little treasures in a box, and would periodically look through them, but because I needed more space for cookbooks, the box had to go.  I thought of posting the photographs on a social media site with captions like “Do you know this family?”, but I wanted to avoid anyone the stigma of undue embarrassment or harassment.  The saddest find was a “Dear John” letter, partially written (second thoughts?), torn in half and stuffed inside a ground meat cookbook between recipes for “Meatloaf with Barbeque Sauce” and “Sour Cream Porcupines”. 

Photo Credit:  www.somethingawful. com

Photo Credit: http://www.somethingawful.

Whatever happened to John?  Did he eventually find happiness without ground meat in his life?  I’ll always wonder.

Despite my finds, I’m still awaiting the day, when I open a well-used cookbook and find an old stock certificate for Ford Motors, or a savings bond, still redeemable, with interest.  I’ve found a few lottery tickets and even located sites online that list lottery results back to 2000. 

I admit, that despite the odds of winning, I did check the numbers and was quickly re-assured that there was a reason they were used as bookmarks in cookbooks. The moral of the story?  If you want a safe place to hide something, stick it inside a cookbook!
Older cookbooks, like these in my collection, often have hidden treasures inside them

Older cookbooks, like these in my collection, often have hidden treasures inside them

About vintagecookbookery

Cookbook lover and collector with a burgeoning collection of cookbooks. Reading and researching food trends, history of cooking techniques and technological advances in cooking, what we eat and why and cookbooks as reflectors of cultures is a fascination for me. As of November 7th, 2013, I hold the current Guinness World Record title for the largest collection of cookbooks: 2,970 at the official count on July 14th, 2013 (applaud now, thank you very much!) The current (unofficial) number is now 6,500. What next? More shelves?
This entry was posted in Cookbooks, Cooking, Recipes, Vintage Cookbooks and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What’s In a Cookbook? (other than the obvious)

  1. Lisa says:

    Hello! I collect cookbooks also and hope you can help me! I am looking for a softcover, spiral cookbook titled “Splendour in My Kitchen” by Marina Castle. Do you happen to have a copy of this you would consider selling to me? Thank you for your time!
    My email: lisa59@suddenlink.net

  2. Archivists call it ephemera. I love finding things in used books. I have a great collection of postcards and other things that were used as bookmarks.

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