Farm-to-table, Paleo, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, Snout to Tail, Local, and the Raw Diet are just a few of the trends that seem to have taken over the culinary world. A focus on ingredients that are customized to an individual’s personal tastes, body chemistry, and needs has transformed cooking in the home and dining out. In the midst of this transformation, many of the older recipes that our grandmothers, aunts, and mothers used are beginning to disappear. These old recipes, some of them not always prepared with the freshest and best of ingredients, are being tossed aside to create “healthier” meals for our families. We completely understand this trend and honestly, that’s the way we eat at our home. We are proponents and supporters of knowing where our food comes from and we support our local farmers, fisherman, and artisans.
Before the explosion of cookbooks, probably led by Julia Childs’ Mastering The Art of French Cooking, published in 1961, homemakers and cooks would write down the ingredients and method on 3×5 cards for their favorite dishes. These little cards became the prized possessions of families as they recorded their most cherished family recipes to be shared with the next generation as well as special friends.
In addition to heirloom family recipes, many of these recipes are the result of the change in the American kitchen that started in the 40s and is attributable to mass production and new preservation techniques. These recipes were the brainchild of the food producers wanting to sell their prepared products. Campbell Soup Company, H. J. Heinz, Kraft, and General Mills are a few of the companies that shared recipes using their products. You could find their recipes on product labels, in newspapers, and in magazines.
There is a great deal of history in these old recipe cards that many of us have stored away in an old wooden recipe box, cardboard box, or just tossed into a filing cabinet. These are the recipes that made up community cookbooks, old Junior League cookbooks, and were served (and are still served) at small, local spots throughout the country. Whether they’re known as a meat and three or tearoom (particularly in the South) or a roadside diner almost anywhere else across the United States, many local folks are still making these recipes and preserving the legacy of past generations.
Did I use to cook with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup or use Cool Whip thirty years ago? Yes. And so did most of us back then. Many people still do. Green bean casserole with canned green beans, cream of mushroom soup, topped with French’s Fried Onion Rings still graces the holiday tables in many homes. It’s a tradition. There weren’t many culinary options back then (in the 50s, 60s, and even into the 70s) and frankly most recipes included a short list of primarily prepared foods, like Velveeta, and other convenience items, such as canned vegetables.
I love some of the older recipes and the elegance of times past. Entertaining and pulling out the china and crystal made a meal really memorable. Maybe it was more about the experience than the food, but it was a very special time when I was growing up. It was certainly the early basis for my culinary training that evolved far beyond a can of soup.
While I’m not here to tell you to make these dishes for your family every night of the week, I thought it would be fun to revisit some of the older recipes, oftentimes with a bit of a twist. Rather than lose what is an important time in our culinary history, I want to share Aunt Mae’s recipe for Indiana Cream Pie. If you want to make it as is, then have a go at it. If you want to make some updated changes, as I will be doing with many of these recipes, then that is your choice.
The goal for this site is to preserve the old recipes and traditions. I hope you’ll make these recipes with great success. For some it will be a taste of memory lane. For others it will be inspiration for new dinner options. If they’re too old-fashioned for you, then maybe you can make some substitutions to update them to your preference.
I hope you will stop in often to see what’s cooking!
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