Vintage Recipe Club uncovers and gives new life to the recipes of yesterday. We try out all kinds of old recipes, from the treasured family favorites, handed down and made year after year, to those that were saved but have been long forgotten. 

When my grandma Kay moved out of the home she’d lived in for over 30 years, we found a wooden card catalog box with two drawers, both stuffed to the brim with recipes. Some were what you’d expect: handwritten cards with recipes for sugar cookies, simple chicken dishes, and ambrosia salads. But there were also Christmas recipe booklets torn out from 1960s issues of Woman’s Day, multiple versions of the same pudding pie recipe clipped from the backs of Jell-O boxes, and more than one typed recipe for Poppy-Seed Dressing. In total, my grandmother had saved over 1,000 recipes from a variety of sources, including magazines, newspapers, classic American food brands’ advertising, and the collections of family and friends.

As someone who grew up during (what I think of as) the golden age of food television, I was exposed not just to the dishes and cooking that prevailed in my very American family. I absorbed the culinary teachings of Emeril and Bobby, Martha and Ina, Too Hot Tamales and Two Fat Ladies. I was inspired to read the cookbooks on my mother’s shelf, which were mostly of The Silver Palate series. I tried first baking and then cooking on my own and learned by trial and error. Top Chef taught me to always season my food. It also moved me to be a more adventurous eater and, as I entered adulthood, I became a full-on food obsessive. 

I’m also a student of history—American cultural history, in particular. Upon discovering my grandmother’s recipe collection, I realized I had an opportunity to better understand what it was like to be a home cook in mid-to-late-20th century America. And, of course, what it was like to be my grandmother, who was a mother of ten, a competent cook and baker with a sweet tooth and a bit of a romantic streak. (The woman saved about twenty recipes for what look to be very fancy fruit cakes from Victoria Magazine.) 

Vintage Recipe Club is where I’m documenting my experiences cooking and baking my way through Kay’s recipe collection, classic cookbooks, and other recipes discovered along the way. My aim is to share mostly the good ones, but also the bad and the ridiculous. For every classic pumpkin pie recipe, there’s one for something like tomato aspic. And I want to try them all.