Times have changed

I was browsing an old cookbook today and wondering if I was brave enough to try the recipe for corn pudding, which starts with popcorn. Reading old cookbooks reminds me just how much more used to be expected of the cook. Cookbooks today really spell everything out for you, and if they don't they usually have some sort of glossary or instruction section. But then, they just told you to make a custard, or poach some fish, and I won't even get started on the killing and plucking and scalding. Could we handle it now?

I appreciate having the more specific instructions we have today. I like that cooking doesn't have to be some big mystery anymore if you were never taught how (which, for the record, I was: thanks, Mom). Anyone can learn how with a little practice and a good, basic cookbook.

And nerds like me can waste our time browsing old cookbooks and wondering if we could have managed back in the day.


  1. I wonder how much this type of thing relates to the "poor man" ad you put up a little while ago. I know that with today's recipes I can do fine. With the old style, though, they're probably right about those who didn't cook all the time not being able to figure it out.

    But - then again - even back then I could probably have made a sandwich, assuming I didn't have to make the bread, jam and peanut butter first.

  2. where do you find your old cookbooks? i'd be interested to find some so that the recipes wouldn't call for a can of this or a box of that. cooking, real cooking, is a lost art!

  3. I would love to have an old cookbook like this. I need to get myself up to the Amish market sometime to find one.

    Mr. Mordecai reminded me of a piece I read once. The recipe told the cook to put her hand in the oven, and when she could only put her hand in for two seconds, it was ready for the cake to go in. Thank God for thermometers!

  4. I haven numbers of old cookbooks, but I admit that most pre-1950's don't work well for today. I do however have a Sunset Magazine compilation that lists recipes from each era, and those have been helpful. Retro cookbooks are my favorite by far!