Musty spiral-bound community cookbooks are portals though time and across regions. They reflect what a certain type of person—the kind of woman who’d join the Junior League in Mt. Horeb or mother who’d join a parent group in Pasadena—cooked and ate in a specific era. You realize that some recipes become dated in a few decades, while others remain beloved and relevant today, even while our tastes and standards change.
Flipping through a community cookbook is a little like scrounging through a shipwreck; you’ll find some treasures, some trash. You also are bound to run across some horrifying entries that will make you scratch your head, at the very least. These, to me, are the real treasures. Here’s a clutch of them gleaned from of community cookbooks published all over the country, dating between 1949 and 1989.
Sara Bir is Paste’s food editor, and the author of The Pocket Pawpaw Cookbook.
Cookbook shelf photo by CC BY