The Modern Family Cookbook

Our library is in the midst of its annual used book sale. Today was the start of “bargain days” – the point in the sale where a bag full of books costs a mere $2. The girls and I left with six bags’ worth. Pepper chose Shakespeare and history, Ginger found adventure fiction, and I ended up with an armload of outdated cookbooks.

Why do I love these so? I don’t know. It’s not that I’m passionate about cooking. I’m not. But there’s something about these old books that draws me. Maybe I’m just waiting for that one convincing volume that will turn me into an enthusiastic and successful cook – someone who really wants to be in the kitchen. Or, maybe it’s the peek into the lives of the women who’ve lived before me. Maybe it’s a little of both. Whatever the reason, the first book I plunged into when I got home was The Modern Family Cook Book by Meta Given.


“Modern” as in 1942.


“Modern” as in feed a family of five for a whole year at an average cost of $12-$15 per week.

So, not so very modern after all.

Still, that didn’t keep me from brainstorming. For about an hour, I honestly considered following Meta’s 366 daily meal plans. I could blog about it, I thought. It would be an experiment. We might lose weight (or gain it). We might save money (or waste it). And, best of all, I’d have a year-long answer to that age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” Heck, I’d even have answers for lunch and breakfast!

So, with great enthusiasm, I plunged in. The menus were dated, so I flipped straight to May…and to a problem. Organ meat. Meta’s home economics laboratory used a lot of organ meat. And then I remembered. These were the war years. Organ meats were patriotic. They required fewer ration coupons. If I followed Meta’s meal plan, I’d be serving “Braised Stuffed Heart” tomorrow, followed by Pan-fried Liver, Scrambled Brains, and Baked Tongue with Barbecue Sauce. Not all in a row, mind you, but all within the month. In between would be heavy doses of pork and lamb. Not a chicken breast in sight.

That was going to be a problem. My children still balk at salad. CPT America won’t eat peas. If I put something as exotic as a stuffed heart down on the table, there would be full-blown mutiny.

So, I don’t think I’ll be following Meta’s menus just yet. But maybe with a bit of tweaking and some substitution they could work.


From the dining room table, reporting that it was nearly 90 degrees here today. Talk about quick turn around!

Mrs. Smythe



4 Comments on “The Modern Family Cookbook

  1. I’m such a sucker for old cookbooks: what a lovely find! Somehow I ended up with quite a collection and every so often we have “Retro Recipe Night”. Sadly, they are usually disasters and I haven’t even cooked an organ yet! My favourite parts are the menus as well: they sound so wholesome and home-y and perfectly domestic.
    Thanks for sharing it!

    • I agree. Old cookbooks are wonderful. I’m always on the look out for them at used book sales. Retro Recipe Night sounds fun! That’s a great idea. Even if the recipes don’t turn out exactly as you hope, you’ve made a memorable meal. 🙂

  2. 95 degrees! Hard to believe for May!

    • I know – that’s what we’ve been saying!