New News From Old Cook Books

Vintage cook books are catching the eyes – and dollars – of customers. For some, vintage cook books are a trip down memory lane, a chance to recreate childhood recipes. Other customers are interested in food history. Avid cook book collectors may buy a cook book for one recipe only.

Old cook books, the ones our mothers and grandmothers used, have things to tell us. “The Victory Cook Book,” published in 1943, is a good example. The title page tells you instantly what the book is about. “Wartime Edition,” the page declares, “With Victory Substitutes and Economical Recipes for Delicious Wartime Meals.”

The key words for Americans in the thoes of a war were “substitutes” and “economical.” This cook book told them how prepare store food and home grown food. Cooks were told how to render the fat from meat, which was put in cans and turned in to local butcher shops. Hard as it is to believe, this fat was made into explosives.

A large section of the book is devoted to menu planning. Doughnuts, cookies, and pancakes were to be eaten only after you had eaten “wholesome foods.” Meat was eaten in small amounts. Sweets were to be eaten in moderation and “The Victory Cook Book” recommends eating salad for dessert.

Meat was scarce during World War II the chapter on meatless meals must have been very helpful. Just reading a dinner menu can make you feel full. A sample dinner menu includes chilled fruit, stuffed tomatoes, parsley potatoes, creamed asparagus, pumpkin pie, and milk. If that didn’t fill you up nothing would.

School cafeteria menus continued the fruit and vegetable theme. A sample lunch menu menu includes brown bread sandwiches filled with cottage cheese, a thermos of cocoa, applesauce, and graham crackers. Today’s kids would probably strike if their school cafeteria served this food.

The point is, there’s no mention of a double cheeseburger, giant order of fries, or supersized soda pop. What is the “new” news in this old cook book? It’s eating fruit and vegetables, things that can help us to feel fit and live longer lives. This news could help to reverse the obesity trend.

According to government statistics 65% of Americans are overweight. Many Americans are eating double or triple servings of food and it shows. Go to a mall and you’ll see people who are waddling, not walking, people who are at risk for heart disease and diabetes. Some Americans are literally eating themelves to death.

Maybe it’s time to return to the foods recommended in “The Victory Cook Book.” We can plan meals around fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, small servings of meat, and few sweets. The best news of all is that fresh vegetables and fruit taste really good.

The next time you go to a used book store or are on the Internet, look for vintage cook books. Find books that feature fresh fruits, vegetables, and vegetarian meals. Look for brand name cook books and booklets, too. You may be surprised at their “new” and healthy news.

Copyright 2006 by Harriet Hodgson