There are so many reasons why I love free vintage cookbooks. I have quite a few, and this past winter I’ve been scouring the internet looking for more to add to my growing digital collection! Here’s why.


Short and easy recipes


As much as I love to cook and bake, I don’t always have as much time as I’d like to spend in the kitchen, especially on weeknights, so it’s very convenient to have a collection of recipes that don’t require too much of my time. Sure, as in every other cookbook or food website or blog, there are recipes that require a bit more effort, but most of them are fairly easy to accomplish in a short amount of time, and suitable even for beginners – that’s how easy they are.


Few ingredients


Many vintage cookbooks date back to the 19th, or early 20th, century. Many cookbooks were published after great economic upheavals or unrest, famine, or war, (e.g. the Great Depression, or World War I or II), and so you’ll find that these recipes don’t require many ingredients, or anything fancy. They require the very basics such as flour, sugar, butter, eggs, along with just a few other ingredients, which most of us already have at hand. It’s then so easy to get supper ready or to whip up dessert in no time at all!


As much I love to drool over gorgeous foodie photos online, it pains me as I scroll down to look at a recipe, only to discover that it requires over two dozen ingredients, most of which I don’t have at home, or hardly ever use, or will have to buy and use only once, which seems a bit of waste to me, so I generally avoid recipes like that.


No fancy stuff


There is, of course, no mention of pre-mixes from stores or specific brands of any kind in vintage cookbooks. Consumerism and widespread availability of such a huge variety of packaged products on shelves worldwide is a fairly modern trend. So if you go for vintage recipes, chances are you won’t be needing anything pre-packaged, pre-cooked, pre-mixed or even pre-baked! I’m thinking of cookie mixes here, and muffin mixes, blends of specific spices, etc.


Economical recipes


Few ingredients, and no pre-packed, pre-cooked or pre-mixed ingredients makes for very economical recipes! I love that! That’s good on my household budget, and it can only be healthier than concocting meals and desserts out of pre-packaged items possibly laden with sugar or salt, preservatives, artificial colouring, MSG, or GMO. And just because the ingredients are simple, and few, doesn’t mean that the meal or the dessert won’t taste good – quite the opposite! Economical recipes often make the tastiest meals and desserts!


This is not to say we never have any “fancy” meals, we do, and we enjoy them when we do but that’s just not the most economical option for every day.


Many are free


All books published in the United States before 1923, for example, are in the public domain, and as such they are available in online library archives for you to read or even download in pdf format, free of charge. While you can absolutely print a pdf document, I prefer not to. If I’m looking for recipes with pumpkin, for example, the computer will come up with search results faster than I can find them flipping through printed pages.


So if you’ve never tried any recipes from a vintage cookbook, now’s your chance! The Internet Archive on the subject of Cookbooks and Home Economics has over 3,000 titles for you to browse and enjoy!


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