Retro cookbooks on the rise

 new vintage books

Remember the old saying that ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’? That applies to just about every aspect of life, including, as it turns out, cookbooks. Perhaps it started with the classic cocktail revival or maybe they grew together, but whatever the reason, cookbooks that revisit classic recipes are on the rise

Dishes that were popular as far back as 100 years ago are finding a new audience in a surge of ‘retro’ cookbooks. Sarah Billingsley, executive editor at Chronicle Books, thinks that today’s turbulent times is part of the reason we’re seeing more books and recipes from bygone eras. “In fraught or trying times, people return to familiar flavors and experiences, looking to the past for comfort,” she explained to Publisher’s Weekly.

Baking books are especially well-suited for this trend, because baked goods are often cloaked in a robe of nostalgia. Who doesn’t wax poetic about a favorite childhood treat? That’s why books like The Vintage Baker: More Than 50 Recipes from Pecan Butterscotch Curls to Sour Cream Jumbles by Jessie Sheehan are receiving rave reviews. Here Sheehan tweaks recipes from pamphlets dating from the early 1900s to the 1960s, providing a backstory for the recipe along with possible ingredient substitutions for items no longer found.

Sometimes an entire cookbook gets a second look, as is happening with Graham Kerr’s seminal work. The Graham Kerr Cookbook: The Galloping Gourmet is a reissue of the 1966 book of the same name. This release is part of a larger project by Matt and Ted Lee, called The Lee Bros. Classic Library. The brothers plan additional vintage cookbook reissues (this is the second one – Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook was released early last year). 

Sometimes older recipes need a bit of updating to make them better suited to our modern lifestyles. In Something Old, Something New: Classic Recipes Reinvented, Tamar Adler takes some of the fuss out of classic foods like crepes Suzette and Coq au Vin. Another thing that all of these titles have in common besides a retro theme is that we’ll be featuring promotions of the books in the upcoming weeks, so watch for Jenny’s review and giveaway posts.

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