A sampling of old cookbooks collected by editorial writer Ginnie Graham.

Certain holidays cause me to peruse old cookbooks. Sometimes, Pinterest doesn’t capture my nostalgic mood.

These are recipe books handed down, gifted or picked up at garage sales. I have a thing for antiquated cookbooks.

Each book is a snapshot of history; the collections show what families were eating as they gathered each day.

It’s not just about the food. The stories around the recipes give even more insight into our past.

Family reunions are usually held near July 4 celebrations. It’s warm, kids are out of school and families can work these into vacations. These also mean potlucks of tried-and-true recipes.

So, that’s why I look for the oldies and goodies this time of year.

A reprint of a 1906 cookbook from Perry, released as part of the centennial of the 1893 Land Run, includes the original advertising. A reminder at the bottom of nearly every page of The Ladies Aid Society of the First Presbyterian Church book states to use only “Pride of Perry Flour.”

Phone numbers had three digits, the local dentist promoted he administered gas, and the Enterprise-Times (“The First Paper Published in Noble County”) promised “prompt and careful attention given to all.”

The Exchange Bank of Perry had $15,000 in capital and $4,000 in surplus and profits. There was a place to buy a buggy, and a pharmacy offered flavoring extracts and baking powder.

I wonder what a pharmacist mixed into extracts. Even more curious was where landlocked early 20th century homemakers were getting a pint of fresh oysters for oyster soup.

The section on creamed soups looks daunting. The cream of celery takes 45 minutes and calls for “head” of celery, not stalks. Pair that with the boiled beef tongue, and I would starve.

Some of these foods I remember being popular with Grandma’s contemporaries: Waldorf salad (two versions), fruit salad (three versions), pea salad, ambrosia, olive loaf and pickled everything.

Reading the more than four-hour ordeal in making ketchup makes me appreciate my Heinz bottle.

No doubt this era was all about from-scratch meals and little to none of the processing that we get from today’s food industry.

One of my favorite cookbooks is “War Emergency Recipes,” a wedding gift from our cool hipster friends Mark and Kelly Kurt Brown. It tries to help families effectively use rationed and non-rationed food during World War II. This was produced by Nash-Kelvinator.

A stamp on the back shows this pamphlet originated at the Tulsa Maytag Co. at its new address, 802 S. Main St.

If the country was forced to eat this way during wars these days, it would speed up peace.

The “Heart Chop Suey” starts with “Wash heart. Remove tubes and arteries.” I’m out.

I’ll take the meatless meatloaf of peas, carrots and day-old bread. The sweets look much better with cinnamon doughnuts, brownies and molasses nut bars.

The “Victory Apple Pie” was made with applesauce, condensed milk, lemon juice and graham crackers.

The “lunch box sandwich” for kids includes a concoction of chopped onion, green pepper, carrots, cabbage, mayonnaise and French dressing mixed together. Oh, but wait.

Next, spread peanut butter on bread then put that mayo-based veggie combo in between the slices.

There is no way a kid could trade that away to a buddy at school lunch time.

Because this was a booklet from a kitchen appliance company, the accompanying text promoted the notion of saving time, noting women were working outside the home.

“Nowadays, when ration points seem more valuable than actual dollars and cents, each stamp must be made to yield its full return … The important thing is what happens between the food market and the dinner table. Adequate refrigeration and proper cookery are the vital factors in preserving food values.”

A 1950 Betty Crocker cookbook reigns as the most comprehensive, detailed and helpful. If there was a precursor to cooking channels and online how-to tutorials, it is this book.

It was Grandma Klein’s and still has receipts, newspaper clippings and “Meals in Minutes” booklets from the Oklahoma State University Extension Service stuck in between the pages.

Photos show different kitchen designs with a “kitchen of tomorrow” I would love today. Step-by-step photos are integral to the book.

The descriptions aren’t just about food preparation. Tips include knowing how to buy meat for the best price, serve tea in the right service and pair the proper vegetable dish with the main course (it was assumed meat would be the meal’s centerpiece).

The coffee section gives a history of the bean and different types of brewing methods.

This is the beginning of a foodie culture. The recipes don’t involve processed, canned items in their ingredients.

The glossy pages show food as a life-is-grand moment reflective of budding American prosperity.

Skip ahead to the 1972 Weight Watchers booklet. Some of the recipes aren’t too bad, looking more like today’s raw-food movement.

But, there is a heavy reliance on artificial sweeteners, bean sprouts and imitation butter flavoring, which I’m not sure exists.

Liver takes up six recipes (Ick!), and I doubt the preponderance of veal would still fit today’s food thinking.

In the 1980s, the Netherton side of my family gathered our favorite recipes.

It has Velveeta in casseroles and dips, canned creamed soups in many dishes, lots of cheese and more desserts than meals.

It’s a decadent collection showing the geographic tastes of where my cousins live.

It also shows the uptick in using processed foods and ingredients in cooking. It’s wonderful comfort food but not something chock full of healthy choices.

Five years ago, a cousin updated that cookbook with the new generations, showing off more health-conscious items: Hummus. Red lentil coconut curry. Tandoori chicken. Butternut squash soup. Steamed vegetables. Ceviche.

The sweets had to be broken into two sections. It’s a dominant genetic trait.

The family cookbooks have narratives, thoughts and sayings from people who are now gone; a bit of their personalities saved in print through descriptions of their favorite foods.

Once in awhile, I try a recipe from one of these old books, often finding something new or remembering a long-forgotten taste.

These old cookbooks take up space and seem quaint. Some are delicate and prone to falling apart.

They are also links to the past, giving a glimpse of what it took to feed our families in lean and prosperous times.

Recipes through the Decades

Oyster Soup

From “The Perry Cook Book 1906”

Boil 1 pint water and 1 pint milk, add a piece of butter the size of an egg and season to taste. Add 1 pint of fresh oysters and bring just to a boil and serve at once. A little toast is a great improvement. If milk is objectionable, all water may be used.

Submitted by Mrs. Arthur A. Hughes

Tomato Catsup

From the “The Perry Cook Book 1906”

One pick ripe tomatoes, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon cloves, black pepper, allspice, mustard and salt, 1 grated nutmeg and 3 cups vinegar. Boil the whole in a porcelain kettle and cook tomatoes until pulpy. Press through a sieve and return to the fire to cook for 4 hours, stirring often to prevent from sticking to the kettle. This will keep in an open jar.

Mrs. Nettie Howendobler


From “The Perry Cook Book 1906”

Cut 6 oranges, 1 dozen bananas, 1 ½ lbs white grapes, small can pineapple into small pieces, add 1 ½ cups sugar and mix well. Let stand in a cool place for two to three hours before serving. Whip a quart of cream and season, adding a little sugar. Fill ice glasses half full of fruit and the remainder with cream. Serves 24.

Submitted by Mrs. Louie Bechtold

Heart Chop Suey

From “War Emergency Recipes”

2 lbs. veal heart

½ lb. pork shoulder

2 Tbsp. flour

4 Tbsp. fat or drippings

2 cups clear chicken stock or water and 1 bouillon cube

3 cups celery, cut in strips

1 cup thinly sliced onions

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

Wash heart. Remove tubes and arteries. Cut heart and pork into ½ inch cubes. Roll in flour and brown in hot fat. Add stock or water and bouillon cube. Cover and simmer for one hour or until meat is tender. Add celery and onions and continue cooking for 30 minutes. Thicken with additional flour, if desired. Add soy sauce and cook for 5 minutes. Serve on steamed rice. Serves six.

Submitted by Hazel O. King, a county demonstration agent in Bristow

Victory Apple Pie

From “War Emergency Recipes”

2 cups applesauce

1 can sweetened condensed milk

5 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

Place applesauce in a mixing bowl and pour the sweetened condensed milk. Blend well. Add lemon juice and mix thoroughly. Line a pie pan with ¾ cup of the graham cracker crumbs. Spoon applesauce mixture carefully into the pan. Sprinkle remaining crumbs over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cook and serve.

Submitted by Gladys S. Russell, a home demonstration agent from Tylertown, Mississippi

Lunch Box Sandwiches

From “War Emergency Recipes”

1 Tbsp. chopped onion

¼ cup chopped green pepper

¼ cup chopped carrot

¼ cup chopped cabbage

2 Tbsp. mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. French dressing

½ tsp. salt

12 slices bread

Peanut butter

Mix together the onion, green pepper, carrot and cabbage. Add mayonnaise, French dressing and salt. Spread half of the bread with peanut butter and half with vegetable mixture. Put together as sandwiches.

Submitted Louise Woodruff, home management specialist from Columbia, Missouri

Yankee Doodle Macaroni

From a 1950 “Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book”

Cook until onions are yellow in 3 tbsp. hot fat … 2 cups minced onion, 2 minced cloves of garlic and ¾ cup sliced mushrooms, if desired. Then, cook 1 lb. beef. Add and boil gently until thickened (about 45 minutes)… 3 ½ cups cooked tomatoes, 1 tbsp. minced parsely, 1 tbsp. salt and 1/8 tsp pepper.

Cinnamon Apples

From a 1950 “Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book”

Core and pare medium or small firm tart apples. Cook until tender in a syrup made with 2 cups sugar, 1 cup water, 1/3 cup red cinnamon candies (“red hots”) and a drop or two of red coloring. Chill and serve around meat or as a salad.

Crunchy Ginger Nut Dip

From “Cooking with Dr. Pepper” from 1965

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

¼ cup Dr. Pepper

1 Tbsp. fresh orange peel, grated

1 Tbsp. crystallized ginger, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Cream the cheese and Dr. Pepper in a blender or mixer until light and fluffy; fold in remaining ingredients; chill. Serve with grapes, bananas, pineapple and strawberries. Makes 1 ½ cups.

Salisbury Steaks Deluxe

From “Cooking with Dr. Pepper” from 1965

2 lbs. ground beef

1 ½ tsp. salt

¾ cup Dr. Pepper

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

10 slices bacon

Combine all ingredients except bacon; mix well and form into 10 patties. Wrap each with bacon slice; secure with toothpick. Broil about 5 minutes each side for medium rare, 8 minutes for well done. Serves 5-10.


From a 1972 Weight Watchers “The Art of Good Cooking” booklet

Pour 1 cup boiling water over 6 ounces liver in a pan; simmer gently 5 minutes. Remove liver and cool slightly. Grind liver and 4 ounces raw onion together. Mix with ½ cup salt, pepper and favorite seasoning. Add ¼ cup nonfat dry milk for consistency. Shape in patties. Broil 3 to 4 inches from broiling unit until brown, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side.


From a 1972 Weight Watchers “The Art of Good Cooking” booklet

2 ½ cups tomato juice

½ cup sauerkraut juice

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup Tabasco sauce

¼ tsp. curry powder

2 Tbsp. chives

Combine all ingredients except chives. Refrigerate until well chilled. Just before serving, sprinkle each portion or 1 tsp chives. Makes six servings.

Scalloped Cabbage

“A Barn Full of Recipes: From T.B. and Bessie Netherton’s Family,” 1988

1 head of cabbage

½ stick butter

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 small carton of sour cream

1 ½ cup grated cheddar cheese

1 cup bread crumbs or cracker crumbs

Cook cabbage for a few minutes (to wilt down); drain; add all the other ingredients except bread or cracker crumbs. Pour into a big casserole bowl. Sprinkle with the bread or cracker crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

 Submitted by Mrs. J.R. (Mary Jane) Netherton

Pecan Brittle

“A Barn Full of Recipes: From T.B. and Bessie Netherton’s Family,” 1988

2 cups sugar

¾ cup corn syrup

¼ cup water

1/8 tsp. salt

2 tsp. margarine

2 tsp. baking soda

2 cups pecan halves

Put sugar, syrup, salt and margarine in heavy pan. Cook it until it reaches hard crack stage. Remove from heat and add the soda. Stir until it puffs p real good. Add pecan halves. Pour out on buttered surface. Pull and stretch until very thin. Good eating, and oh, so fattening!

Submitted by Helen Netherton


“Netherton Family Cookbook” 2014

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas

½ tsp. salt

1 clove garlic, minced

3 Tbsp. tahini

3 Tbsp. lemon juice

Pour drained chickpeas into a blender. Add salt, garlic, tahini and lemon juice. Blend until smooth.

Submitted by Ruth Hendy

Red Lentil Coconut Curry

“Netherton Family Cookbook” 2014

1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk

1 large onion, minced

1 Tbsp. garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. gingerroot, peeled and minced

2 tsp. curry powder

½ tsp. ground turmeric

½ tsp. ground cumin

½ tsp. pepper

¼ tsp. ground red pepper

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

2 to 3 bay leaves

¼ cup tamari or soy sauce

1 cup tomato sauce

2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed

5 cups water

1 medium cauliflower, cut into 1 ½ inch florets

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

¼ cabbage, cut into 1 ½ inche chunks

Brown rice

1 to 2 cups peas (optional)

Shrimp (optional)

Indian chutneys and pickles (optional toppings)

Diced fresh pears (optional topping)

Roasted sunflower seeds (optional topping)

Plain yogurt (optional topping)

Papadum (optional)

If time allows, place can of coconut milk in the freezer for 20 minutes before starting to cook. Open can and remove solidified coconut butter from the top to use in sautéing. In a large soup pot, sauté onion in coconut butter or olive oil over medium-high heat until transparent but not browned. Add garlic, ginger, curry, turmeric, cumin, pepper, red pepper, cinnamon and bay leaves and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook and stir constantly for 3 minutes; do not let spices and onion brown. Add canned coconut milk, tamari or soy sauce and tomato sauce and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes, stirring often. In a separate saucepan, cook lentils and water for 15 minutes. Add with liquid to soup pot. Add cauliflower, sweet potato and cabbage to soup pot and cook over medium heat until tender. If using peas, add at the end of the cooking time. You can add shrimp (a quantity of 50 works well with this recipe) if you’re looking for more protein. Serve over brown rice with the optional topping; I serve with papadum. Serves 8 to 10.

Submitted by Hannah Kirkbride Kraner, who got it from “Simply in Season” cookbook

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Ginnie Graham 918-581-8376

Twitter: @GinnieGraham