Dive into vintage Neighbor Lady cookbooks

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 Some of the advice is outdated (no one needs to know how to make a wax-coated mop to clean bedsprings) and some fall into the “old wive’s tale” bucket (place a slice of dry bread on top of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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  • gamulholland  on  June 2, 2022

    Kinda sorta related—when I went to med school in 1999, my M.D. parents gave me a bunch of their old textbooks, and I remember flipping through an internal medicine textbook that covered an extensive workup for unexplained weight loss…without HIV included. Because it was from 1981. Different world. It was like a time capsule. I find old cookbooks to be similar to old medical texts also in their antiquated ideas of what was and wasn’t healthy. 🙂

  • Jenny  on  June 2, 2022

    This Jenny loves cookbooks – and these are fantastic. Just downloaded them all and wish I had originals. Get behind me, devil Darcie.

  • rhosworld  on  June 3, 2022

    Thank you for posting these cookbooks! They are awesome! 🙂

  • sayeater  on  June 6, 2022

    This is very cool. I foresee much browsing in my future!

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