Cookbooks in my Kitchen: A Working Collection

Cookbooks in my Kitchen: A Working Collection

My Image

by Ann Frenkel, Assistant University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services

This display represents a small selection from my working collection of cookbooks. They fall into three categories: general, vintage,  and miscellaneous/international.  I use some cookbooks like dictionaries or handbooks (e.g. what goes in the topping for apple crisp?  at 350° how long do you roast a 5 lb chicken?  or, how long do you cook black beans?)  Some cookbooks have standby recipes I have used for years.  Many of my vintage cookbooks were acquired when I lived in Boston in the 1980s and 1990s and went poking around in used bookstores, finding strange and quirky things. Reading through them gives a fascinating glimpse into the social, domestic and commercial life of earlier years.

I liked to cook when I was little, but disliked cookbooks because my impression was that they just wanted to make you do stuff, instead of letting you do what you really wanted.  My mother was wise and let me have a go at several self-designed recipes (such as “tomato cookies”).  But by the time I was 12 or so, I realized that cooking (at least, successful cooking!) occasionally needs consultation, either with a person or a cookbook.

 Basic, General Cookbooks

Beck, Simone, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child. Mastering the Art of French Cooking. New York: Knopf, 1961. 2 vols.
A two-volume classic for cooks of the 60s and 70s.  Everything I have tried in here has been very successful, but I don’t like the amount of steps you have to go through.

Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
A good reference work is a must for dinner table conversation; this one is a bit anglocentric, but still useful.

Frenkel, Ann. Handwritten and printed pages in binder.
This is my own messy collection of recipes, from my mother, from the internet, from friends, and cut out from newspapers or magazines. There are some recipes in here that I have never tried.

The Gourmet Cookbook. New York: Gourmet, 1951, 1958. 2 vols.
A two-volume classic for cooks of a certain age.  My mother brought me up on it, and in high school I worked through all the Chicken Sauté recipes.

Kafka, Barbara. Roasting: A Simple Art. New York: Morrow, 1995.
Wonderful simple recipes that use the high-heat method.  Get a good exhaust fan, or disconnect the smoke detector!

Kander, Mrs. Simon. The Settlement Cook Book: The Way to a Man’s Heart. Milwaukee: Settlement Cook Book Co., 1951.
Developed for a Jewish Settlement House in 1901 in Milwaukee to introduce immigrant women to American domestic life (and consumer culture); it includes Jewish, German, and other European recipes (and no observance of Jewish Kashrut).  My use of this comes down from my German Protestant grandmother for whom this was a basic cookbook.

Rombauer, Irma von Starkloff, and Marion Rombauer Becker. Joy of Cooking. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1981.
This is the book used most frequently to jog my memory, and for making fail-proof pie dough. My mother calls it “Rombauer” (as in “have you looked in Rombauer?”)

Strybel, Robert, and Maria Strybel. Polish Heritage Cookery. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1997.
My husband is Polish so this has become a basic cookbook—from barscz to pierogi to celery salad to all variety of delicious cakes…

Boston Symphony Orchestra. The Boston Symphony Cookbook. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1983.
A surprisingly good collection of interesting recipes; a favorite is Mrs. Earl Hedberg’s Pepparkakor (Swedish spice cookies).

Chamberlain, Samuel. Clémentine in the Kitchen. New York: Hastings House, 1943.
This tells the story of an expatriate American family bringing their French Burgundian cook back to the States in the late 1930s.  Filled with simple French classics, including a poetic Boeuf Bourguignon.

Rosso, Julee, Sheila Lukins, and Michael McLaughlin. The Silver Palate Cookbook. New York: Workman, 1982.
If you cooked during the 1980s, someone invariably gave you this one.  It’s very reliable, if unimaginative.

Vintage Cookbooks
Farmer, Fannie Merritt. Chafing Dish Possibilities. Boston: Little, Brown, and company, 1898.
Who said there aren’t possibilities for chafing dishes?

Higgins, Elizabeth L. (?) Handwritten pages in a binder.
I found this notebook in our current house (built 1935); I assume it comes from the previous owner who lived here since the 1970s, but this recipe for Mahogany Cake looks older.

Higgins, Grace. The Crowd Comes to Our House. [Providence, R.I.]: The Alvin Corporation, 1930.
Published by a silversmith company; ads for flatware patterns are interspersed between the recipes.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. The Metropolitan Cook Book. [New York]: Printed and distributed by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co, 1922.
Designed to provide “nourishing, tasty dishes at the lowest cost possible,” published by an insurance company.  “Right living is largely dependent on healthful eating.”

Neil, Marion Harris. A Calendar of Dinners, with 615 Recipes, Including the Story of Crisco. Cincinnati: Procter & Gamble Co, 1915.
Proctor and Gamble introduced Crisco (hydrogenated vegetable oil) in 1911, and gave away these cookbooks to try to convince housewives to move away from butter and lard. Every recipe uses this “rich, wholesome cream of nutritious food oils.” P&G promoted Crisco as healthful, economical, digestible, and kosher!

Nickerson, Doyne. 365 Ways to Cook Hamburger. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1960.
Given to me as an ironic wedding shower gift, this includes three recipes for tartare (not cooked)!

Priscilla Publishing Co. Modern Priscilla Cookbook; One Thousand Recipes Tested and Proved at the Priscilla Proving Plant. Boston: The Priscilla Publishing Company, 1928.
Published as a thank you gift for subscribers to Modern Priscilla (needlework and home crafts magazine published from 1887 to 1930).

Ranhofer, Charles. The Epicurean; A Complete Treatise of Analytical and Practical Studies on the Culinary Art, Including Table and Wine Service, How to Prepare and Cook Dishes and an Index for Marketing, a Great Variety of Bills of Fare for Breakfasts, Luncheons, Dinners, Suppers, Ambigus, Buffets, etc., and a Selection of Interesting Bills of Fare of Delmonico's from 1862 to 1894. Making a Franco-American Culinary Encyclopedia. New York: C. Ranhofer, 1893.
This magnificent book is by the chef of the famed 19th century New York restaurant Delmonico’s.  It provides an endlessly fascinating documentation of a very different time for high society food. 


Last modified: 3/11/2009 9:02 AM by A. Frenkel

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