From the Depths of the Cookbook Shelves

12 Oct

The Sarah Daft Home is an assisted living facility for the elderly in Utah.  The Sarah Daft Home Cookbook is quite possibly the most enjoyably dated and delightfully unappealing cookbook I’ve ever had the pleasure of perusing.  As someone who is endlessly fascinated by the used-to-be-relevant content of old cookbooks (warning: that link right there will take you directly to a tutorial on how to cook and eat a porcupine), the Sarah Daft Home Cookbook has provided me with an almost embarrassing amount of amusement.

The book starts things off right with a few advertisement for local businesses.  This particular ad has the unfortunate effect of seeming as though it was written in the voice of Norman Bates:

The recipes in the book read like they were written by two ladies sitting around and talking to one another about what they like to cook.  Take, for example, this recipe for something called penny muffins:

Okay, so then you set them aside to rise and then…?  Did Mrs. E. J. Raddatz have to excuse herself to go answer a knock at the door?  WHERE IS THE REST OF THE RECIPE?  I mixed my batter at noon, just like you told me to, but then what?

Mrs. Charles Wilkes seems to suffer a similar predilection for intrigue when it comes to her recipe for delta gamma muffins:

That’s it.  There is nothing else written about those muffins.  At least the woman above her, Mrs. H. N. Mayo has the decency to at least suggest mixing and then cooking the ingredients, albeit somewhat mysterously in an oven that is described as being nothing other than “slow.”

Some recipes seem to be so popular, more than one lady chose to submit her favored recipe, as in the case of these competing recipes for the attractively named shrimp wiggle:

This recipe for Japanese salad seems to be an effort in composing a dish made entirely of items one would never, ever encounter while in Japan, but might possibly encounter if forced to create a dish while blindfolded and harvesting ingredients from a cartoon cat’s shopping cart:

Many of the recipes in my copy of the book have been marked by the previous owner.  Some notations seem to be indications of a successful effort (lots of underlining and a small, modest check mark), while others speak volumes with the simplicity of their verdict:

Pork cake and burnt leather cake?  Inexplicably, both get a yes.

Bread crumb pudding?  No.

Brain timbale?  Let me see what I will need to make this.  Oh, yes, now I see: brains.

I like how this page starts off with a recipe that seems like it could be a real thing, but then the rest of the page just seems to give up as it goes along, eventually descending into gibberish:

If you are looking for a copy of this cookbook to claim as your own, I am sorry to inform you that it is long out of print. My copy was gifted to me by a friend (on account of the fact that the author of the cookbook shares the exact same name as me, down to the same middle initial), but I did find one copy available on Etsy.

11 Responses to “From the Depths of the Cookbook Shelves”

  1. Wendy October 12, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    Hysterical! Thank you so much for the laugh. It does make me wish that garage sale season wasn’t coming to a close so I could go hunting. Where do you usually find gems like this when they’re not gifted?

    • savorysaltysweet October 12, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

      Wendy–Thanks for reading! Powell’s Books (where the person who gave me this book happened to work) has a great selection of vintage/weird cookbooks. Since the majority of the old cookbooks they have are not sold as vintage collectors items, they are generally very well priced. I think this particular book was priced at $3! If you shop at, you can access the inventories of all the Powell’s stores, as well as the selection in their warehouse. Full disclosure: my husband works at Powell’s, but lord knows they don’t kick anything at all my way when I mention them. They really do just have a great, eclectic selection of books.

      • Wendy October 12, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

        Cool, I’ll have to check it out! I’ve always enjoyed flipping through dated books. It’s amazing how much attitudes and especially language has changed in the last century.

  2. Nancy October 12, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    This reminds me of the cookbook my grandmother so earnestly sent my mother when we were young. She had annotated many of the recipes, making encouraging remarks and helpful suggestions. People were always encouraging my mother to cook more. Biscuits from BisQuik didn’t qualify.
    Letters from my other grandmother to her son, my father, were similarly focused. She offered to come live with us and grow a garden, teaching Gertrude how to feed her family. After one probably memorable visit to us, she wrote that ‘Gertrude would be lost without her can opener, wouldn’t she?’.
    I don’t think my mother took either of these women seriously.

    • savorysaltysweet October 12, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

      Nancy, that story is hilarious. I wonder if both of your grandmothers knew how to make rinktum ditty or shrimp wiggle?

  3. gypsy October 19, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    I found my way here via the premium being offered to Future Tense backers, and I’m so glad I did! Brain Timbale! Looking forward to exploring the archives…

    • savorysaltysweet October 19, 2011 at 5:56 pm #

      Gypsy–Welcome! And remember that if you pledge $50 to Future Tense at the Cake and Book Level (man, I sound like someone from the NPR pledge drive), I’ll bake you a cake if you’re within driving distance of Portland, OR. Is it weird that I am super excited to bake those cakes? SO EXCITED.

  4. Meredith October 25, 2011 at 7:49 pm #

    Hi Liz,
    I too found my way here after giving my $50 to future tense, but alas i live too far for the cake option– let me know if you decide to ship! Anyhow, i love the blog. Have been doing a food blog myself since July. I have a cookbook similarly abrupt in directions– it was written by possibly some nuns at the Ursuline convent in New Orleans. It has the most awesome chicken and dumplings. The cajun dishes are the safest to make without directions. I find making funny french food without directions a little scary though. My mom’s old betty crocker has “no” written next to several cakes, and i hear her saying it when i come upon them.

    • savorysaltysweet October 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

      Oh, man. What I would give to see that possibly-written-by-nuns cookbook. I haven’t yet worked up the gumption to try out a recipe from the Sarah Daft Home Cookbook, but if I do, you’d better believe I’d tell you all about it. Thanks for reading, and thanks for donating to Future Tense!

      • Meredith October 26, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

        here is a link to the book. this came out in the 1970’s, but obviously the nuns have been cooking since 1727. The directions are so short, you better know how to make a roux, or what not, because they wont tell you.


  1. » Another week, another 5 posts commented » Fall Bloomer Fall Bloomer - October 14, 2011

    […] 5. Dated cookbook = hilarity ensues. […]

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