I’ve developed an obsession with “The Modern Family Cook Book” by Meta Given, originally published in 1942 and reprinted multiple times through at least 1969. Instead of seeing a psychologist to discuss my fixation, I’ve decided to blog about it instead. “The Modern Family Cook Book” features a full year of daily menus (breakfast, lunch and dinner) with the shopping list printed alongside and a numeric reference to the recipe for cooking each item. Genius.
I’m going to try to cook every one of Meta’s over 1139 recipes (with exceptions-see the fine print here). Preferably, I will make the recipes by following the entire menu recommended for specific days of the year (but with the exceptions, there will be, of course, some exceptions to this). I’m not going to this all in a year (a la Julie and Julia), since I might be required to see that psychologist if I tried.
I love this book, cooking and history. I’ve read many, many cookbooks, but have yet to find one so masterfully done. I want to take a step back into American culinary history and recreate food that I think still has value and a place in our modern food landscape. This cookbook captures a pivotal moment in our culinary history; it’s poised between a pre-modern society where food is seasonal, local and regional, grown at home and purchased at small stores, and made primarily at home and a modern post-WWII society where food is much more industrial and mass-produced, with frozen and convenience foods available at supermarkets and chain-restaurants. The original publication date of 1942, so close to Pearl Harbor (12/7/1941) and the entry of the U.S.A. into WWII, makes this a very interesting snapshot of the American food landscape before it changed radically.
This book is not just a time capsule though; even if some of the recipes show their age (Heart Chop Suey, Tomato Aspic, or Jellied Salmon Salad, anyone?) A great many of the simple, time-tested recipes are just as good today. The fact that this cook book was reprinted through at least 27 years is a testament to it’s timeless value. I love sushi, cronuts and Greek yogurt, but I also think traditional American foods have worth and shouldn’t be forgotten.
I’m looking forward to some delicious food!