Dive into vintage Neighbor Lady cookbooksJune 2, 2022 by Darcie
If you love regional cookbooks from the post-war era, it’s your lucky day. I recently stumbled across a trove of vintage pamphlet-style cookbooks that a dedicated fan has recently scanned for free viewing and downloading. The cookbooks are part of a series published by WNAX Radio, based in the small town of Yankton, South Dakota. The AM-radio station broadcast over a large swath of the upper Midwest, reaching listeners in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa. One of the station’s popular programs was hosted by Wynne Speece, known as “Your Neighbor Lady.” Speece gained a huge following, at one point receiving over 250,000 letters from fans each year.
From the early 1940s through the 1970s, WNAX published a yearly Neighbor Lady cookbook that featured not only regional recipes submitted by listeners, but also photos of Speece, her family, and fans of the show, letters and poems, plus household and cooking tips. Blogger and lover of all things retro Jenny Zannelli (is there something about the name Jenny and cookbooks?) received a number of these booklets when she purchased a box of cookbooks at her great-aunt’s estate auction. She has continued to collect Neighbor Lady cookbooks and has recently scanned and uploaded 18 of them to her blog Cracked Ice and Chrome.
These Neighbor Lady booklets are fascinating vignettes into the life of rural US housewives in the post-war era. The recipes are similar to those found in church and auxiliary cookbooks, but the addition of photos and letters from fans makes them even more enjoyable to read. The household tips in a section called “Your Did You Knows” is a riot. Some of the advice is outdated (no one needs to know how to make a wax-coated mop to clean bedsprings) and some fall into the “old wive’s tale” bucket (place a slice of dry bread on top of burned beans to draw out the burnt taste), but you can still pick up a tip or two that will work in 2022. Happy reading!
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