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20th Century Nostalgia Food & Recipes Memoir & Narratives

“There is nothing like a good old recipe. If it has lasted, then it is good.” Yotam Ottolenghi, Israeli chef

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Photo: Collin Yung

I collect vintage metal recipe boxes. I have eighteen in my collection. Some were purchased from ebay.com, but most were found here and there while scouting antique shops and junk stores. Most of the boxes in my collection are empty, but three contain recipes inside. Those with the recipes are ephemeral time capsules that echo with the writings of one woman’s time spent in her kitchen.

The one above was found at a little place called Shop Girl in Jefferson City, Missouri over lunch hour one day when I was visiting the city for an education conference. On my first sweep through the store, I completely missed it. As I was leaving, the shop owners asked me what I was looking for and then directed me to a display where this one was tucked. It’s perfect. Retro graphics and typography, made in USA, hinges on the lid, a few rough and rusty spots from frequent use, and… drumroll, please… recipes inside! Many of the recipes are even handwritten and all are very fragile.

There are recipes for peanut butter cookies, molasses snaps, angel cookies, prune cookies, toffee nut bars, pecan bars, chess bars, mincemeat cookies, peanut brittle, brownie drops, pecan strips. Clearly, this baker had a sweet tooth. Or perhaps this box held only her cookie recipes.

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Many of the recipes are clips from newspapers and magazines, but a good number are handwritten in cursive on note paper. A recipe for pecan sticks is written on a sheet from a notepad printed for the “New N&W Railroad… First Rate for Fast Freight.” A recipe for pecan bars appears on a sheet for “Union Pacific Railroad, The Automated Railway that Serves all the West.” One recipe is on the back of a daily expense report for “country salesmen” for Iten Biscuit Company and its Snow White Bakeries.

It’s nice to have something specific to search for when I venture into a nostalgia shop. It’s even nicer when I spot a vintage metal recipe box to bring home.

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By marilynyung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

6 replies on ““There is nothing like a good old recipe. If it has lasted, then it is good.” Yotam Ottolenghi, Israeli chef”

That’s so poignant- made me feel a bit sad- you could do a series of blog posts where you make her recipes, and write a short story about each one, triggered by the notepaper, or her handwriting etc… just an idea! What a lovely vintage memento to collect, G

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What a great idea. It reminds me of the blog “transcribing memory.” You should look it up. It’s a wonderful blog… the transcribed diaries of the blogger’s grandmother or great-grandmother. Thanks for the idea!!! Seriously, thank you.

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Actually there are two recipe boxes waiting for you when you come home for Christmas, one from your grandmother and another from your great grandmother with lots of old recipes!!

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