Retro cooking is welcome diversion


I have become weary of worrying about the debt ceiling and the leak in my bathroom ceiling.

As a diversion, I have become enamored with vintage cookbooks and enjoy reading about how our mothers and grandmothers got a meal on the table.

(Note I say “table.”  I’m wondering how many families still eat at a table on days other than holidays.)


I inherited my grandmother’s 1953 Souvenir Edition of the Better “New Cook Book.”

I was reading it this morning and it brought back memories of my mother slaving over a hot stove for “dinner” which was always served at lunch during the Fifties.

A recipe for “Tuna Jackstraw Casserole” caught my attention because it calls for shoestring potatoes from a can.  Remember those?  I loved them, and wonder if they are still on the market.  Haven’t noticed.

I’m pretty sure Mother made this and put the recipe in her “fancy food” card file.  Here’s the recipe and instructions:

Measure 1 cup shoestring potatoes from a can, reserving some for the topper.  Combine potatoes with one can cream of mushroom soup, one 9-1/4 ounce can of drained tuna, and a 6-ounce can of evaporated milk.

Add one 3-ounce can broiled sliced mushrooms (drained) and 1/4 cup chopped pimiento.  Pour into 1-1/2 quart casserole.  Arrange reserved potato sticks on top and make uncovered 200-25 minutes in a 375 degree oven.  Makes 4-6 servings.

And I guess the “Tuna Casserole” was born.


Another interesting recipe, called “15-minute Banquet” incorporates a 12-ounce can of luncheon meat which I interpret to be Spam.  You brown slices in melted butter and add a 11-ounce can of yams.  Spoon 1/3 cup peach preserves over all and heat uncovered until hot and glazed.

I yearn for everything about the 50s, but I’m not sure this is something I miss…

11 thoughts on “Retro cooking is welcome diversion

  1. Are they, now? Who buys them, and what do they do with them? (well, other than the obvious) With all the doritos, tostitos, baked chips, chipotle chips, blue corn chips..ya da ya da… I’m amazed that people still buy shoe string potatoes. Maybe there’s hope for the world after all.

  2. I love to use potatoes in casseroles, but I use hashbrowns (either frozen or dried & rehydrated). Works beautifully with just about any combo of veggies & meat. Don’t forget the cream of mushrooms soup!

    The old cookbook I miss most is the Women’s Home Companion Cookbook. Mom had (has?) one, I think it was grandma’s. Eventually it was coverless and torn in two. Still the best. It has everything you need and more. 🙂

    The most interesting are some of the “natural foods” cookbooks from the ’60s and ’70s. I’m fairly tofu- and seitan-savvy, but there are tons of ingredients in there that I just have no idea what they are.

  3. I have the Women’s Home Companion Cookbook also. It was my mother’s, given to her as a wedding gift in 1942. Love it. It’s my “go to” for everything. Plus it has notations written by my mother

  4. It’s a nice thing to have that kind of heirloom, isn’t it? I hope to inherit *both* pieces of it (!) someday in the far future. In the meantime, if I can get myself to cough up the $65-150 I’ve seen them for online, I will buy my own copy.

  5. Are you kidding me Sunshine? I’d better take better care of mine. I also have a cookbook from my grandmother called “Hollands Cook Book” published by the Texas Farm and Ranch Publishing Co – can’t find a date but figure it dates to the 20s. My grandmother’s special recipes are written in the margins in her scrawling cursive. One of the recipes is for ‘possum and sweet Potatoes. It begins, pour a large kettleful of hot water into a convenient vessel, add a small shovelful of ashes and then put the ‘pussum in…bla, bla, bla. Frankly, I never knew ‘possums were edible.

  6. Emily, I have an old cookbook…Dishes with Dash…published in 1949 by the University of Alabama branch of American Association of University Women. Each recipe is handwritten by the lady who submitted it. It was given to me by an aunt who was Law Librarian at UA Law School. Knowing her association with UA, I wondered if Olivia Portera might want the book. You have my email addy, so, if she would like it, contact me with her mailing address and I will package and send it to her. Or, I would be happy to mail it to you to give her on your next trip to Tuscaloosa to visit her. It has a few worn spots, but to be 62 years old, is in much better shape than I am. lol.

  7. How sweet – I will forward your note to her. She may not see it since you replied on an old post. Will get back to you. I’d love to love at it myself. I love retro recipes.

  8. Emily, you are welcome to look at the book. Just give me a call when you are in WP. After you finish with it, you can either mail it to Olivia if she wants it (I will pay postage), take it to her if you are going to visit, or get it back to me and I will have it mailed to her.

  9. Thanks Pat. She’s coming over in a few weeks to have a girls day out – Why don’t you send me your phone number on my e-mail ( and I will call you before we meet over there and we can arrange to meet you somewhere.

  10. I have to say that for the last couple of hours i have been hooked by the amazing posts on this site. Keep up the good work.

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