Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vintage Blog and Historical Cookbooks

I have decided to discontinue my vintage blog as I just don't have time to work on it along with everything else I do. I do want to save this one particular post so I have copied it over onto this blog.


For my birthday in May my sister at Reduce, Reuse and Rummage bought me the wonderful book "Eat My Words: Reading Women's Lives Through the Cookbooks they Wrote" It's a wonderful book which reaches far beyond recipes (or receipts as they were called long ago) and into the social lives of women, the struggle for equality in regard learning how to read and write, and the struggle of women to become published authors.

This brings me to a topic I have been wanting to write about since January when I purchased a vintage metal recipe box as a gift for my sister. When the box arrived it came with some freebees and you can't imagine how excited I was! In it were several cookbooks with handwritten recipes, newspaper and magazine recipes, newspaper articles and most things were also dated! I have been pouring over the books and have come to learn a lot about the previous owner.

The brown spiral notebook begins in 1940 when I presume Mrs. Sheldon was a young bride. I know her name is Mrs. Sheldon because the red "Sugar An' Spice And All Things Nice" children's cookbook was copyrighted 1950 and contains the name Melissa Linda Sheldon (I assume this was her daughter as the dates fit) and most articles in the books are from Cleveland. The strange thing that I found in the red children's cookbook was a stash of alcoholic drink recipes.

I'm not sure if you can see the daughter's signature in this photo

More photos of the brown notebook with newspaper clippings and handwritten recipes and Mrs. Sheldon's notes about the recipes and changes she made. Again the first dates on the recipes are 1940, but the stamps on the lower corner are from 1935 and 1936 - I wonder if she just had them lying around and then added them to the book. This notebook appears to end after WWII as on the back cover there is a newspaper clipping about two brothers stationed in the South Pacific.

Close up of stamps

The blue binder is predominately composed of recipes clipped from newspapers and magazines and covers the 1950's and into the mid 1960's.

I love her notes! Obviously the books came from an estate sale and I am sorry that Mrs. Sheldon's family let them go and didn't see the books for the insight/history that they provide about this woman's life.

The back of the binder held several newspaper articles about people.

This clipping is from an entire page of The Cleveland Press dated Wednesday, June 24, 1964
Entitled "40 Years Ago in Lorain Tornado Struck Like Giant Claw of Death"
Mrs Sheldon has written in green ink "I remember this storm"

So, what I have learned about Mrs. Sheldon (from my detective work)? That she was a young bride in around 1940 and had at least one daughter. She grew up and lived in or around the Cleveland, Ohio area and was most like born around 1920. I don't think she had much of an education, perhaps just some high school based on the simple spelling mistakes that I find throughout the books. I believe she was of Danish origin as there are several Danish recipes in the books and one note "Recipes from a danish church out west". She must have had friends who lived in or she visited Michigan and Toronto as some recipes say "Sandusky, Michigan" and there are two sheets of letterhead from the Royal York hotel in Toronto with recipes on them (but the handwriting is different than Mrs. Sheldon's)

I can say that I feel blessed to have received these books. I feel that I am now the keeper of Mrs. Sheldon's life in a way. It would have been such a shame should these books have been thrown away or destroyed.

It has made me come to realize that I also need to clean up the mess I have of my own recipes. For years I have just thrown things into a binder (not even clipped in!). I am now slowly taking everything and either writing or pasting the recipes into a proper book. Hopefully my children will keep the book and pass it on.


Leonie said...

Thanks for this lovely post. I have been googling for handwritten recipes because I think that they are a personal thing. I love them. I love that you are now in possession of the books and that you'll continue to look after them.