The Shopper Kitchen: Finding fun recipes in old cookbooks


By Angela McRae, The Shopper Kitchen

For years now, I have enjoyed collecting vintage cookbooks and pamphlets. Sometimes I’ll wander through an antique mall with an eye out for them, and occasionally I’ll come across a whole batch for one low price. Some of these publications were distributed by companies promoting a particular brand of produce, like Sunkist lemons, while others were once premiums given out by companies like Baker’s Chocolate, Snowdrift Cake Flour, Wesson Oil, or Knox Gelatin.

The titles of these old publications are often amusing and the sort of thing you’d never see today. I found one booklet published for the men and women of General Motors in 1954, and the title is “Cakes Men Like.” Most of these recipes are for cakes anyone would like—Lemon Coconut, Banana Spice, Pineapple Upside Down Cake—but there in all its Technicolor glory sits an angel food cake absolutely swimming in what looks like an inch or more of gloppy bubblegum-pink frosting. (The men can have it!)

I have found some real treasures in old cookbooks too, and the history of a recipe always makes me enjoy making it even more. Whether it’s a chocolate cake or a casserole of yesteryear, there’s something so pleasant about knowing that I’m carrying on the cooking and baking traditions of other women.

A favorite “cookbook-collected” recipe I like to make is a chicken and artichoke salad that came from a now-closed Minnesota B&B and restaurant called Just Like Grandma’s. This recipe from an old Just Like Grandma’s booklet is attributed to someone named Shan. I don’t know Shan, but I can tell you that Shan’s recipe sure is a tasty one (and yes, my husband likes it too). This easy, cool salad recipe calls for just 1/8 teaspoon curry, and I questioned whether that was enough since I really love me some curry. Indeed, this small amount adds just the right zip to this salad!

In these warmer days of summer, I appreciate any recipe that keeps me from having to turn on the oven, and perhaps some of you feel the same way. So if you’d like to whip up something cool and tasty that can serve as a great lunch or dinner dish, try this one. It’ll give you more time to head to antique malls in search of your own vintage cookbooks!

Shan’s Chicken and Artichoke Salad

1 box Rice-a-Roni, chicken flavored
1 (7.5-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (reserve marinade)
1/2 cup sliced black olives, drained
1/2 small green pepper, finely chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped onion
1-1/2 cups cooked, coarsely chopped chicken or turkey
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon curry powder

Cook rice according to package directions, reducing water by 1/2 cup. Let cool. Add artichoke hearts, olives, green pepper, celery, onions and chicken. Mix reserved marinade with mayonnaise and curry powder, then add to other ingredients and blend well. Refrigerate until serving. Serves 4-5.

Angela McRae is a freelance writer and editor from Newnan, and you can find out more about her work at Email questions and comments to her at [email protected].