For the Modern Woman of 1965

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Here's how the woman in a hurry will be enabled to plan her time and food resources to meet her increasing tasks expected of her and still give herself and her family all the necessary variety and attractive service modern mealtime demands." -The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook (pg. 900)

Not so much a cookbook, but a resource guide for the modern American woman. One who is new to the kitchen and is suddenly faced with cooking for herself as a single career woman or, most likely as the book expects, a new wife and mother. Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook by Ruth Berolzheimer is by and far one the pinnacle cookbooks of the 1960's and 70's.

Published in 1965, CAIEC was intended to be "familiar, friendly, and exhilarating" and "provide sound knowledge of what a homemaker needs for herself and her family." The cookbook covers everything; from menu planning, to packing school lunches, to tables settings, and even has charts on the cuts of veal and squirrel.

Oh yes, squirrel.

While chicken, beef and pork are covered at length you will find no end to the number of American sourced meats such as opossum and reindeer and how to prepare every single organ in each and every critter that runs on the American plains. Tongue and cabbage salad? Done. You want calf brain fritters? You got it. Spinach rolled sweetbread? Why not?!

The modern American woman, of course, is one who is at least fourth-generation American (not an immigrant), white (no, white immigrants don't count unless you're maybe English), and middle class. A new generation without servants to prepare their food, a critical aspect of the cookbook as if you look in cookbooks older than this servants are a topic that are usually addressed. However, once or twice the topic of "if you have a servant" is addressed in CAIEC and it provides useful tips of how to put them to work in assisting you for cooking for that night's stylish cocktail party.

This cookbook is a product of the times, as referenced by these notes and others indicators such as the prevalence of jelled salads and the reference to "mechanical refrigerators" and "the recent discovery of vitamins." Still, this book gives Joy of Cooking a run for its money and addresses things that the 1960 edition of Joy didn't such as shopping lists, addressing what foods are high in certain nutrients like phosphorous and copper (in case you need more phosphorous in your diet).

However, one of the best little discoveries in this book are my grandmother's notes. Recipes that have been tried and crossed out, or others that have been edited with substitutions. As Ojai Grandma was a world traveler she begins to edit the book to make dishes more exotic in a time when curry powder and pizza were new and radical foods. In fact, the addition of ingredients like soy sauce, bonito, and chipotle peppers are noted here and there. Where a modern woman in 1965 procures these at the time rare, if not wholly unknown, ingredients in the middle of rural and cutoff Ojai, California is beyond me, but she was a resourceful girl apparently.

This is particularly noteworthy as the book focuses solely on classic Americana cuisine. You won't find tacos, chop suey, lasagna, or coq au vin. While I didn't find the lack of Thai curries surprising the intentional choice to disregard classic European dishes, especially French, that American cooks looked up to as the definition of refined cuisine, a culinary God to which virgins should be sacrificed, is surprising. The book is intent of keeping things American with a few choice exceptions such as a basic consommé or sauerkraut. This means praline ice cream, salsify patties, jelled lime and avocado salad, and raised cornmeal griddlecakes.

After checking with mom if I could steal the book away from the dusty shelves in her library I now have the book at home with me and plan to start cooking from this and exploring some of the book's particular quirks and chapters on the blog.

This will be a little mini-series exploring what was expected of a modern homemaker in 1965. One that, hopefully, will result in some great recipes and some insight into the home cook of America's past.

Note: Click here to see the photos in an album rather than a slideshow.


  1. I've got a very similar cookbook from my mother's collection, published in the mid 50's. Many of the recipes have been used repeatedly over the last several decades, by both Mom and myself, but the true treasures are the cake batter splatters, crayon scribbles from busy little hands and assorted notations from Mom. Absolutely priceless.

    On a related note, I'm sure you've noticed the rather "interesting" illustrations found in books of this era. There is an absolutely hysterical website devoted to varied and sundry cookbooks from the 50's and 60's, including many cookbooks published by companies such as Knudsen (dairy products), Knox Gelatin and several others. The web address is Within the site, look for the Institute of Official Cheer, and then the Gallery of Regrettable Foods. I promise, you will be thoroughly amused.

  2. Oh WOW, I can't wait to see what culinary treasures you recreate from this book! I inherited mom's Filipino cookbook written by the legendary Nora Daza in the 1960s. Offal dishes! Canned American meats! Spanish/French/Filipino fusion! It so reminds me of my high-society grandmother and the big fancy parties she used to throw... *sigh*

  3. Old cookbooks... Always so interesting and enlightening! Don't you think?

    Great post!

    Have a Happy New Year! :)


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