In recent years I have become something of a sucker for vintage cookbooks, with an emphasis on ones from the 1950s and ’60s. Buying the Queensborough house where I spent my childhoodin the 1960s and early 1970s has only encouraged my enthusiasm for these relics of another culinary time.
My collection – pretty much all of them finds from yard sales and thrift shops – includes several old editions of The Joy of Cooking (the edition published in the middle of World War II is interesting, what with rationing and all), a book dedicated to casseroles (remember when casseroles were just the thing?), another dedicated to salads (which, at the time it was published, were something of a novelty, what with fresh produce not being all that common) and also several guides to entertaining that are – well, entertaining. Here’s a typical excerpt from one of them, How To Give Successful Dinner Parties (published in 1963):
Even if a roast burns to a crisp … a hostess neither weeps nor wrings her hands. Again she smiles – and asks for volunteers to scramble eggs, male volunteers preferably. In these days of “togetherness” many men take pride in their culinary ability. Also, when a man undertakes to do anything in the kitchen he will, almost certainly, ask for and receive assistance. Whether he simply scrambles the eggs or, on a whim, decides to add tomato paste, mushrooms, if there are any, or grated cheese, there will be women eager to wait on him. And such guest participation could result in a better party than it would have been had the roast been done to a turn instead of a burn.
Now you just try to tell me that that isn’t good stuff. (Maybe I should start a whole other blog with daily excerpts and pearls of wisdom from these classics.) And I should note that as I write this, my husband (Raymond) is behind me in the kitchen preparing lamb and mushroom stew. Oddly enough, he has neither asked for, nor received, assistance.
But meanwhile, at the Manse: I was going to tell you that I’d found yet another great addition to my vintage-cookbook collection on our last visit. I like to check out the local second-hand stores, especially since a woman I met in the Tweed Home Hardware told me about finding a set of copper pots in one of them. (Sadly for me, another set has yet to materialize.) My most recent find was Vol. 2 of the Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, and what made me decide I had to fork out the 50¢ or whatever it was for it was not the photos of limp broccoli dishes with all manner of gloppy sauce on them, or those of (utterly unsuccessful) efforts to make cabbage dishes (translation: cabbage wedges with more gloppy sauce) look elegant – though those were of course very appealing.
No, it was the section on “Canadian Cookery,” and most especially the inclusion of one classic dish known, of course, to every Canadian household: Roast Snow Goose.
But if you’re interested – well, stop by the Manse and I’ll give you the recipe.