Those old, splattered, battered cookbooks found on kitchen shelves are also treasured family heirlooms in many cases, according to research by AbeBooks.com that reveals Irma S. Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking is the cookbook most frequently handed down through the generations.
AbeBooks asked 500 customers who owned a cookbook that had been given to them by a family member to spill the beans about their beloved hand-me-down culinary companions.
The books often spanned several generations of cooks and had huge sentimental value. In 96 per cent of the cases, a grandmother, mother and mother-in-law had handed over the book to the next generation. The books tended to have a long history within each family – 58 per cent of the cookbooks were more than 50 years old. Thirty eight per cent of the current owners said they had owned the book for more than 30 years.
The Top 10 Most Frequently Handed Down Cookbooks
Fannie Merritt Farmer
First Published 1896 (Also known as The Fannie Farmer Cook Book)
Mrs. Simon (Lizzie) Kander
First published 1901
The majority of these much-loved cookbooks fit into the ‘scruffy but usable’ category – a few had even been rebound to prolong their life. Virtually everyone had a favorite recipe from their book – often bookmarked in some manner or simply used so often that the book naturally opened to that page.
The cookbooks were frequently embellished with handwritten notes in the margins and recipes clipped out of newspapers or magazines. Some owners said they intended to pass on their cookbook while others revealed they had purchased new editions for their offspring because they could not bear to part with their beloved kitchen companion.
- Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (aka The Fannie Farmer Cook Book )
- "Chocolate stains on the brownie page, egg stains on the waffle page etc., handwritten notes (tried 3/22/1968, too dry)"
- “It has old ads in the back of foods no longer manufactured. They show a lifestyle long gone.”
- Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book
- “Every time I thumb through it, it brings back all the happy memories and wonderful aromas of my mother's kitchen. We spent a lot of time in the kitchen together as I was growing up and I will cherish all that she taught me forever.”
- Settlement Cook Book
- "I like the chapter about feeding infants and children. And how to make a homemade fireless cooker to keep foods hot without expending more fuel. And how to hang a window box for keeping foods cool. There are even discussions about how to clean your dishes and wash your kitchen. And setting the table with different instructions if there is a maid."
- Better Homes and Gardens
- “It presents a history of how ‘healthy eating’ has evolved over the years. I love that aspect of looking at old cookbooks.”
- The Canadian Woman’s Cook Book
- “I lost my first copy when my house burned down and found another at the Highway Book Shop in Cobalt, Ontario. It was actually The American Woman’s Cook Book but was exactly the same as my old copy.”
- Cooking Made Easy (Monarch Flour Canadian Cookbook) by Ann Lee Scott
- “This is the 1940s vintage and it speaks to me of my mother as a young bride. The pages are torn, many covered in stain. I can visit with my mother through the book.”
- The Joy of Cooking
- “One of our twin daughters told her dad she was never getting married so she would not need to bake bread. The statement was written on the fly leaf and signed by everyone at the table that morning. She and her husband have three marvellous daughters, each of whom can bake beautifully.”
- The Dione Lucas Meat and Poultry Cook Book
- “Mom and I used to watch Dione Lucas on her TV program; she preceded Julia Child in introducing her audience to French-style cuisine and set off my own. I don't have the book at hand, having passed it along to my own daughter who is planning to give it to her daughter-in-law, so Dione becomes immortal.”
- Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book edited by Dorothy Kirk
- "I grew up using this cookbook as a child and still use recipes from as a 67-year-old woman.”
- Cookery Book and General Axioms for Plain Cookery by Miss Briggs
- “My grandmother (born 1879, died 1965) received it as a school prize for cookery in 1889. The recipes were written for cooking on a kitchen range, which means 120 years later, they are perfect for someone like me, who cooks on an Aga.”
- A Good Housekeeping Cookery Compendium (Good Housekeeping Institute)
- “The book is from the 1950s, when I was a child and is one of the first with colour photos. I love the way the photos are more relaxed than the absolute perfection you see nowadays.”
- The Lily Wallace New American Cook Book
- “It still has little scraps of paper or a folded napkin holding the place of the recipes my grandmother used. Also it is interesting because the ingredients and types of recipes used then were really different (more fat etc)”
- The Art of Cooking and Serving by Sara Field Splint (published by Proctor & Gamble)
- It has no cover, but has Mother's signature and ‘Lake Oscawana, Dec, 1930’. She tucked in recipes clipped from papers and magazines, pasted some in.”
- Mennonite Community Cookbook by Mary Emma Showalter
- “There is an inscription in the front of the book – ‘To dear Sue from Mother’ ... Sue was my mom, so this was a gift from my grandmother to my mom. The chilli sauce recipe calls for a ‘peck’ of ripe tomatoes - had to consult Google to translate that one. On that last page of the index Mom hand-wrote a recipe for ‘Foolproof Cough Medicine.’ Although we were not Mennonite, the book reminds me of our Plymouth Brethren roots.”