When we choose books to bring to the bricks and mortar shop or to list online, we're pretty choosy. Our goal is to curate a collection of books that have vintage or antique charm; things like works by regional authors, non-fiction works of special interest, books with beautiful illustrations, paperbacks with an epic covers, vintage textbooks and school books and, of course cookbooks. Lots of cookbooks.
Cookbooks capture history; food trends come and go like hemlines rise and fall. Cookbooks show us different regions of the country and the world. Cookbooks provide timeless basics. Cookbooks provide new ways to think about old favorites. Reading a cookbook is a very pleasant way to pass an afternoon.
There are four kinds of vintage cookbooks we love:
Every generation has their essential cookbooks. Fanny Farmer's The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, Betty Crocker's Cookbook, Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, Joy of Cooking, the King Arthur Baking book, Moosewood, and I would submit newest essentials, anything by Mark Bittman. You can tell what cookbooks were the kitchen essentials because they are the ones with the tatty covers and grease stains. Never walk by a grease stained cookbook!
The Community Crowdsourced cookbooks
We love the comb-binding community cookbooks. These little gems are crowdsourced compilations of fairly reliable recipes because nobody submits a recipe that isn't super tasty. These cookbooks were often fundraisers for schools, churches and non-profits. Occasionally they are from workplaces--those often have funny bits that totally cracked up the office gang at the time.
The Niche Food cookbooks
These are cookbooks dedicated to one particular food or dietary plan, usually slim volumes, usually soft cover and usually keying off something that was trendy at the time. These little nuggets often have good recipes that were popular back in the day that have been replaced with newer, shinier recipes.
The Time Capsule cookbooks
These are the ones with the fantastic photos and illustrations and sometimes zippy little recipe names (we are particularly fond of recipes that are "on-a-stick." This is where you find recipes that were on trend then but are on snarky lists of horrible vintage recipes now. Some of them belong there, particularly if they involve gelatin, but there are also some fun foods that have retro flair in addition to being tasty. Brand-related cookbooklets like the ones you find at the supermarket checkout are also in this category. (Full disclosure: the cookie recipe that everyone always asks our family to make comes from a Pillsbury booklet bought at Stop and Shop market in the 1990s.)