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Kitschy or Classic, Vintage Cookbooks Experience a Revival

Hot & Cool Trends

By Cari Martens

Whether you enjoy them for their retro graphics, or their sometimes campy, often classic, style, cookbooks from yesteryear seem to be enjoying an upswing in popularity today.

One reason could be the renewed interest in cooking icon Julia Child, thanks to the recent ‘Julie & Julia’ movie and book. Child’s ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking,’ first published in 1961, is a current best seller.

Or perhaps it’s the unintended comedy in the old books, writes Patricia Lowry in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Lowry interviews Amy Alessio, who owns about 250 vintage cookbooks and blogs about them at vintagecookbooks.blogspot.com.

Alessio gets occasional chuckles from recipes such as ‘Sandwich Loaf,’ which calls for one loaf of unsliced white bread with the crust cut off. ‘Slice the bread horizontally and spread with butter, and then ham, egg or shrimp salad. Then stack them and slather the reconstructed loaf with cream cheese sometimes tinted pink or green.’ Apparently, people actually like this culinary creation, Alessio says.

Prune Whip is ‘huge’ in old cookbooks, she adds. And when Hawaii became a state in 1959, ‘Hawaiian-style’ recipes calling for pineapple or coconut became de rigueur. Serving things in a wheel was another trend back in the day, she says, such as Baked Bean Pie from the 1967 Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

But then there are the classics that stand up to the test of time. Child’s ‘Mastering’ has never been out of print. First edition copies sell online for as much as $3,500.

One of the most sought-after cookbooks for collectors is ‘Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book,’ which is the all-time best-selling cookbook in the U.S. Most vintage cookbooks available online and in used bookstores date from the 1950s to the ’80s and many are out of print. Those published earlier than 1950 are harder to find.

Maybe it’s time to go up in the attic and dig out those old cookbooks your mom or grandmother gave you. Might contain some great recipes. Might be worth some money. Probably will be worth at least a few laughs.

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