The Most Popular Cookbook from Every Decade
As time goes on, cuisines change, but we have to admit that many of these books still remain classics! Find out if you've got some of these vintage cookbooks stashed on your shelves.
In today’s digital-dominated world, we have free and instant access to a seemingly infinite number of recipes—you’re only a few clicks away from some of the best dishes from the past. However, there’s something nostalgic—or dare we say magical—about flipping through a crisp (or delicately worn) cookbook to find the perfect recipe. Whether you’re just an everyday foodie or a home kitchen wizard or a food service industry pro, there is a cookbook out there for you.
Let’s travel through time and check out the most popular cookbook from every decade since the beginning of the 20th century.
1900s: The Good Housekeeping Woman’s Home Cook Book by Isabel Gordon Curtis (1909)
In a genuine and empathetic fashion, Scottish writer and editor Isabel Gordon Curtis introduces recipes that are simple, classic and easy to follow. This celebrated cookbook from the turn of the 20th century ($20) was written and designed with hardworking housewives in mind, with easy to follow instructions, blank pages for notes, narrow dimensions to save space, and recipes thoroughly tested by Good Housekeeping staff, subscribers, and even Curtis herself.
1910s: Gold Medal Flour Cook Book by Washburn-Crosby Co. (1910)
This distinguished anthology of recipes ($10.23)—from appetizers to mains to desserts—will give home cooks a glimpse into what life in the kitchen was like over a century ago. Recipes include all-American favorites such as chicken potpie, fried oysters, cornbread, bread pudding, and cherry pie.
1920s: Good Housekeeping’s Book Of Menus, Recipes And Household Discoveries by Good Housekeeping Magazine (1922)
The Roaring Twenties were an esteemed time of prosperity, cultural and social dynamism and conviviality. This nostalgia-inducing cookbook from a revered era ($22.36 paperback; $34.36 hardcover) is full of everyday meal recipes as well as those for holidays and other occasions. It also provides readers with practical advice for various rooms in the household, many of which are still relevant today. Get more recipes from the ’20s.
1930s: Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer (1931)
This iconic essential cookbook that was written during the American Great Depression ($23) has truly stood the test of time. Rombauer provides guidance and confidence to cooks of all skill levels, socioeconomic statuses and generations. The latest edition from the 75th anniversary includes more modern recipes, illustrations and techniques, but includes most elements that are so loved about the original print.
1940s: Hors D’Oeuvre and Canapés by James Beard (1940)
James Beard is remembered by many as the Dean of American Cookery. His namesake lives on with the James Beard Foundation, a non-profit culinary arts organization. This striking gastronomic masterpiece, his first of many authored cookbooks, contains recipes and tips for all levels of entertainment, from casual parties to lavish events. Certainly, a few of these vintage apps make an appearance in Beard’s book.
1950s: Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book by Agnes White Tizard (1950)
Betty Crocker is a household figure that’s adorned kitchens and pantry shelves for decades. However, contrary to popular belief, Betty Crocker was not a real person. Despite Ms. Crocker being a fictional domestic goddess character created by an advertising agency, her brand is legendary. This beautifully illustrated, still-famous cookbook ($24.72) was penned by Agnes White Tizard, a home economist and nutrition consultant who image lives on via Betty.
Delicious recipes in this book include homemade breads, vegetable sides, biscuits, pies, cakes, cookies, stews and so much more.
1960s: New York Times Cook Book by Craig Claiborne (1961)
This treasured cookbook ($23.89) was written by one of the most respected food writers and critics of all time. Housing nearly 1,500 recipes, it became an instant hit and sold over three million copies. The recipes, suited for everyone from kitchen novices to sous chefs, include everything from chilis to cakes to soups to meats to paella.
1970s: Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle (Vol. 1 published in 1961; Vol. 2 published in 1970)
Gourmet goddess Julia Child had a way of making her viewers and fans feel like they were right there with her in the kitchen. Her kind demeanor, sense of humor and scrappy style of cooking has been celebrated and remembered for generations. Traditional French recipes included in this all-time bestselling cookbook include beef bourguignon, bouillabaisse and cassoulet are featured. And, if you ask our staffers, this one is not to be missed. Bon appetit!
1980s: The Silver Palate Cookbook by Sheila Lukins and Julee Russo (1982)
Lukins and Russo, former business partners and co-owners of Silver Palate, a Manhattan gourmet take-out shop, bring their tried-and-true recipes into your home in this one-of-a-kind cookbook ($17.65). Written for the everyday home cook, it’s teeming with delicious recipes, useful cooking tips, inspiring quotes and engaging stories.
Featured recipes can satisfy every type of palette, from rudimentary to daring: lemon chicken, carrot cake, spinach-stuffed mushrooms, venison stew, ginger pumpkin mousse and more.
1990s: In the Kitchen with Rosie: Oprah’s Favorite Recipes by Rosie Daley (1994)
Oprah Winfrey is known for her generous heart as well as her advocacy for a healthy lifestyle and diet. Back in the ’90s, Winfrey’s personal chef Rosie Daley cooked countless low-calorie, low-fat, amazingly delicious meals for the talk show queen, changing the game in supermarkets and kitchens across America. The two leading women collaborated on this bestselling cookbook, ($14.36), which includes wholesome recipes such as sweet potato pie, lemon angel hair pasta, creamy corn chowder and more.
2000s: The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics by Martha Stewart Living Magazine (2008)
Martha Stewart has entered the homes and hearts of millions over the past several decades. Her fans come from all walks of life, and she has a gift of making every occasion memorable and every meal special. This acclaimed cookbook ($13.07) is a collection of the raved-about recipes from a decade worth of issues of her flagship publication. 1,200 recipes of all mastery levels are featured, including poached salmon, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, decadent desserts and more. You’re sure to discover meals your family will fall in love with.