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Fifties Food Bible

June 2, 2011

Last week I was given something very special. My grandmother gave me her first ever cookbook ‘Good Housekeeping’ which was given to her by her Mother. The book dates back to the nineteen fifties and the old yellowed pages are splattered and stained. The spine  is coming apart from over-use and the pages are clinging on by just a few threads. The book is crammed with hand written recipes and notes neatly penned by my grandmother. It’s also cluttered with cut-outs from the paper with recipes that caught her eye. I feel like I am going back in time, as I read the old recipes and paper cuttings from a time gone by.

Having flicked through the pages, one of the first things that struck me was how commercially minded cookbook publishers were in these times. This cookbook is crammed with advertisements for products we know and love such as Bourneville Chocolate, Kenwood mixers and Weetabix. Looking at the beautiful full colour ads, I am instantly transported to the age of Mad Men and glamorous housewives.


It was an age without the Internet, without food blogs and with little or no cookery programmes on TV; hence the cookbook really was a bible and fountain of all knowledge. As well as recipes, cookbooks informed about modern kitchen utensils, hygiene and all the fundamentals of good housekeeping. Running a good home was a job in those days, and a job to be proud of.


This book was published not long after the war and it’s evident from the book that times were tough. This is especially true for recipes that call for luxury ingredients such as chocolate. ‘Economy Chocolate cake’ uses only a smidgen of cocoa powder to give it a chocolaty flavour. Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine a chocolate cake relying on a sprinkle of cocoa powder and not a mention of 70 percent dark chocolate!

There are some recipes that are still alive and well today, while others such as preserved eggs and jellied eels have virtually disappeared. I am really looking forward to trying a few of these recipes for myself, especially the iced fancies which look like the kind of posh cakes you might get in any modern cake shop. Stay tuned for more recipes from the past…..

You can click on any of the images above to see a larger version.


  • Reply Rachael June 2, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Wow, what a great post, made me think of our oldest cookbook – my Nana’s Home Ec text from the 40s I think! They were amazingly useful back then, weren’t they? Now it’s all glamorous photos and style shots, no tricks of the trade or what to do ‘if’ tips. And yes, blatant commercialisation, like those great Stork books we all have at home from the 70s and 80s!

    • Reply Vicky June 2, 2011 at 2:46 pm

      Ha ha, we still have a few of those Stork books at home too! We used to keep all the home Ec. books as well. They were like the reference guides of cookbooks. There is so much advice about everything in this book, I love it. And no Photoshop pictures of glamorous chefs and their families! Just plain and simple cooking 🙂

  • Reply Lily June 2, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Wow Vicky, what a jewl! They don’t make them like that anymore! You should blog some of the recipes you try!! 🙂

    • Reply Vicky June 2, 2011 at 2:41 pm

      I know, I am so happy to have it and really excited to cook with it. It’s easy to find my grans favoutite recipes are those pages are the most stained! It’s sad to think, that in the future cookbooks might all be on e-readers and we won’t have these beautiful pieces of history.

  • Reply Rachael June 2, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Judging by the state of some of my cookbooks (sticky pages, butter fingerprints, flour in the spines) I’m pretty sure an E-reader wouldn’t last a minute in my kitchen! I’ll be doing my bit to preserve physical cookbooks! 😉

  • Reply Móna Wise June 4, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    I cannot wait for you to try some of these recipes and blog-all-about-it!
    It looks like such a cool book and yes, very interesting to see all the adds.
    Back to the ironing for me ;0)

  • Reply Noeleen Evans June 5, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    That cookbook brings back a very sensory memory. It smells of old cake mix splatters, you know the kind!!!!!! What a lovely memory of yesteryear for me as a child of the fifties. The dainties look like something in Otto Lenghi. Can’t wait to view your interpretation. Keep up this great blog…….

  • Reply Malachy Geelan June 8, 2011 at 11:05 am

    What a lovely book! I love collecting old cookbooks, and have even tried out some of the weirder and wackier recipes from some of them. I’ve noticed an emerging trend with new books recently, where they’re given an ‘aged’ look – somebody’s obviously done their homework 😉

    Great to meet you last night at The Exchequer, and I’m looking forward to seeing your photos.

    • Reply Vicky June 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm

      Thanks Malachy, great to meet you both last night. Dying to try out some of these old recipes. Would love to read a blog with some of your recipes from the old books. Hoping to revive some good old fashioned food from the past.

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