Charlie Parker, Penguin and foodie, explores the notion of nostalgic dishes, “vintage food” and some rather lovely old cookbooks in the second of our Penguin Cooks series. Bon appétit.

There is something to be said about the nature of a recipe. It can become a family heirloom – passed down from generation-to-generation.  Sometimes it’s an object of pride – “no-one
can make it like my grandmother makes it”. Other times an object of awe – as in the awe experienced when attempting to make one of Adriano Zumbo’s macaron recipes.

I recently stumbled upon my Great Nan’s recipe notebook – dog-eared and stained. It contained cuttings of classic recipes such as ‘Kidney and bacon bake’ and ‘Lamb’s tongues in cider’. This particular heirloom, along with my Nan’s vintage Raleigh, is something I will treasure forever.

My partner also has his mum’s recipe notebook from which we get wonderful North American classics such as pancakes and Ukrainian classics like beet borscht. These enter the canon of our weekly cooking, and get their own place in our recipe books (with additions and tweaks that make them our own).

All this nostalgia got me thinking about “vintage food”: the garishly photographed recipe books of the 60s, tattered old preserves books, old French cooking books. All relevant again and making their way onto foodie bookshelves and blogs in their droves, Julia Childs and Elizabeth David household names once more. I remember when I was first introduced to Julia Childs via YouTube – “the gateway to French soufflés and cakes” indeed – what a revelation!

The Pauper's Cookbook

Here are a few blog posts that have praised some vintage recipes, taken from Penguin cookbooks. Firstly, we dip into The Pauper’s Cookbook by Jocasta Innes with posts from That Lefty Food Blog (dealing mainly with soups) and The Vintage Cookbook Trials (also, incidentally, soup lovers).

Preserves for all Occasions

Preserves for All Occasions by Alice Crang is another vintage favourite. As shown here by Come Step Back In Time and in a cracking chutney recipe, revived here by London Gardening Under Difficulty.

French Country Cooking

Plats du Jour

Make, do and mend culture translates into food – people are pickling, canning and jamming. It seems to be less about making food last longer and go further than about learning a new skill, but then perhaps many of those city-dwelling cooks are saving cash by stocking up their pickle cupboards ready for the year to come.

It probably says something about “vintage food” culture that Penguin published the Great Food Series in 2011 – and I have to say, along with the second hand Elizabeth David books, this collection is sitting proudly on the shelf at home.

Great food

My next vintage recipe to try? Well it’s a classic my Nan used to make all the time: blancmange with floating orange segments.

Charlie is Digital Marketing Manager at Penguin – you can find her blogging about food over here and quite often tweeting about food and other things over here.
Related articles

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Cooking from Penguin’s Great Food series

Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. I really should but that Penguin series. I adore the covers!

  2. The Paupers Cookbook-one of my favourites of all, and still used today. Ditto Left Over for Tomorrow by Marika Hanbury Tennison and The Farmhouse Kitchen by Mary Norwak. The yellowing, food-stained pages a history of 1970’s experiments in the kitchen-happy memories…

  3. Thanks for your comments!
    @Beth – it’s such a beautiful series isn’t it? The individual titles make for lovely presents as well.
    @Jacqui – I really love uncovering an old recipe. I’m tempted to do a bit of shopping around and see if I can add these titles to my cook book collection! I also found some incredibly colourful 1970s cooking leaflets in my Great Nan’s book – they need to be framed I think.


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