A new recipe project: What do you think?

What the …???

Last week blew my doors off, and somehow I managed nary a post here on writes4food.com.

Well, we’re back in the groove now … and before I resume sharing yummy seasonal and deliciously Midwestern recipes this week (to come: posts on glorious summer corn and tomatoes), I need to ask your input on an idea.

My recent acquisition of a stack of vintage recipe cards (ca. 1934) has prompted some interest. As I posted earlier, I had a VERY brief fling with the idea of cooking my way through the entire stack, á là “Julie and Julia.” Until, that is, I discovered the recipe for Kidney Bean Salad with Sliced Tongue.

The recipes (which are either hand-written in pretty blue script or typed neatly on index cards; many are signed, Clara Shenefelt) offer a snapshot of how American housewives cooked for their families in the early 1930s. These dishes are light years from the way I cook now: They’re fussy, time-consuming and reliant on then-popular ingredients like canned pineapple and gelatin. No wonder convenience foods like TV dinners and cake mixes started their revolutionary march through American kitchens in the 1940s.  For the 1930s housewife, getting dinner on the table was, forgive me, kind of a pain in the ass.

Still, what to do with these recipe cards?

And then on Friday night, well into a bottle of wine, Rob had an idea: Draw one card at random each week, prepare that recipe and share the results here. If I encounter ingredients that aren’t commonly available now, I’ll have to improvise, but otherwise I’ll remain true to the source. And if a recipe calls for individual molds (as so many salads and desserts do), then it’s off to the antique store whence the cards came.

So I’ll put it to you, friends … Want to join me on a journey through Clara Shenefelt’s recipe collection? Comment here to let me know if this is a good idea!

20 thoughts on “A new recipe project: What do you think?

  1. It’s a fabulous idea! I can’t wait to see what happens next.
    Your big fan,
    Maureen B.

  2. What a find!
    So many possibilities come to mind for your recipe collection project- here are two that came to mind: 1. pick a recipe and intentionally update for modern cooks 2. use a card for a food writing prompt of the day. Looking forward to seeing what you do!

  3. I think it’s a brilliant idea! Sounds like a lot of fun even though I am not much into cooking and baking like I probably should…even with the modern-day devices that we have that make things so much easier and allow us to put dinner on the table quicker, I still find it to be a pain in the ass at times. LOL! But I really think that the idea of pulling out random cards and then having to visit antique stores and search for ingredients or find ways to improvise is fun! It’s like an adventure! 🙂

  4. I love digging through old finds like those recipe cards. Some of my favorite recipes have been found on vintage cards like your stash. I hope you enjoy making the stuff. If you can find a good cookbook, circa 1930s or 1940s (maybe earlier) at a thrift shop or yard sale, you may be able to figure out some of the ways they made things that we no longer do anymore, if you haven’t had those ideas passed down from parents or grandparents.

  5. Sounds fun! Please do 🙂 Make a challenge to have your readers “update” it after you’ve posted the original maybe?

  6. Love it! And the designer side of me always thinks of the visual…might be cool to take the recipe you adapt and write that on a new, fresh card (maybe even \with a monogram or cute border that shows it is from modern time), and take a picture of them side by side… ??
    But love the idea and the sweet find of these cards.

  7. Bryn,
    I would love to follow this cooking experience. I have an old recipe book from an aunt and it makes me laugh. Really…mayo in jello salads.

  8. I think the new project sounds really interesting. Not quite that long ago my mother had a recipe notebook with recipes that used ingredients like the ones you described. Jello salads with canned fruit cocktail and cream cheese. My mother also had really beautiful handwriting – a lost art!

  9. I think it’s a wonderful idea! I have a collection of old company-type cookbooks (like Kraft) and they’re fascinating to me. And, more often than not, inspiring.

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  12. I just found some of these recipes on SparkPeople and I absolutely LOVE the idea. Came to this site and will definitely be back for more cooking tips and ideas. Although I’m on the west coast, good cooking is good cooking so I’m all in for the recipes. I’m even going to ask my Mom (82 years young) to share some of her older family favorites. Thanks for the inspiration! I’m also going to start looking for old recipes boxes at garage sales and estate sales, a great way to preserve our food heritage! Wonderful idea.

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