Finders, Keepers: Rescuing a Discarded Recipe Book

Spread recipe book coverWhen I found a red, three-ring notebook of someone’s favorite recipes in the magazine swap bin at my local library, I knew I had to bring it home. I would value a stranger’s carefully clipped and pasted recipes that no family heir had taken. No one wrote a name in the book. Proof of the time frame came from a list of ingredients with a price for Plumrose ham ($2.87 per can) noted on 11/25/69 next to the rest of the shopping list for baked ham and cheese sandwiches: A&P real sliced cheddar, Arnold Brick Oven bread, 4 eggs, and 3 cups of milk.

Spread pantry listMaybe nobody claimed this book because it seems so outdated. Just look at the pantry items. Inside are equally outdated recipes. Chicken marinated in bottled French dressing. Corned beef hash. Asparagus rolled up in ham slices. The book’s owner also saved advice about what to eat in the pamphlet “For Health and Happiness through Food.” The wisdom of our predecessors? “To guard against no appetite and ensure good digestion and nerves, eat pork, peanut butter, whole wheat bread, and cereals.” What, no fruits and vegetables?

Eager to make good use of my swap bin find during picnic season, I decided to try Chutney-Cheddar Spread, something that probably went out of fashion around the time that the Mad Men characters stopped coming to work in mini-skirts. I hoped the spread would liven up my sandwiches and it did. It delivered a concentrated jolt of flavor best accompanied by sliced tomatoes and cucumbers to tone it down – but it sure beats boring grilled cheese, and think of the story I can tell at the picnic table.

Spread 2Mystery Woman’s Chutney-Cheddar Spread (circa 1969)
Makes about 2/3 cup

4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup chopped chutney (I used ginger-mango)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine (soften first)
1 teaspoon instant minced onion flakes
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash bottled hot pepper sauce

Combine all ingredients in a small mixer bowl. Beat until fluffy. Spread on sandwiches or crackers.

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About heritagerecipebox

I am named after my great-grandmother, who only prepared two dishes, according to anyone who remembers: hamburgers shaped like squares and peanut butter sandwiches. Fast forward 100 years and 500 miles north from my hometown of Richmond, Virginia to Boston, Massachusetts. Somehow, I ended up with a cooking gene as well as an interest in history and family stories. I have worked as a journalist and published three cookbooks plus a memoir. This blog gives me a chance to share family recipes and stories -- and other American recipes with a past. What do you have to share?
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2 Responses to Finders, Keepers: Rescuing a Discarded Recipe Book

  1. I remember this cheese spread from 4th of July picnics at my grandparents – back in the 60s. A version of it appears as cheese balls in The Silver Palate cookbook – mango chutney + cheddar then formed into balls and rolled in crushed walnuts. I guess The Silver Palate was going retro. They are good and I make them frequently as buffet food for holiday parties.

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    • Thanks for the memory and the reminder of the variation in the Silver Palate – I’ll have to look for that. The cheese balls I remember from the 1960s looked scary because of the Day-Glo colors hiding underneath those soggy nuts!

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