Thanksgiving and Cookbooks

This Thanksgiving will look different than holidays gone by, but one thing can remain the same. When I think about Thanksgiving, I immediately begin to salivate as I think about all of the tasty foods I am going to enjoy! What do you eat with your family? We are usually traditional turkey feast eaters, but last year my family decided we would rather have gumbo on turkey day. This year my husband and I are staying home and making pizza from scratch.

While this holiday is about spending time with family and giving thanks, it’s difficult to picture the day without the food. I will forever cherish the time spent peeling apples with my grandma for pie, or sneaking pieces of the smoked turkey while I mashed potatoes with my uncle. The recipes become a central part of the memories, some passed down by word of mouth and others from family cookbooks.

Did you know that the Special Collections department collects cookbooks? We collect them because they are an important part of our culture. All you would need to do is look at them to see how much we have changed over the years.

Pumpkin pie recipe from Family Cook Book

The first cookbook I am going to mention was published in 129 years ago in 1891. It is called simply “Family Cook Book” and was published by Healy & Bigelow, who owned and operated the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company. Opposite all the recipes are advertisements and testimonies for “Kickapoo Indian Oil”, which they claim can cure everything from indigestion to rheumatism to “female diseases” (someday I’ll do a whole post about how women are represented in some of these old publications…). The recipes themselves are so simple, missing some measurements that we would consider critical now. For the recipe above, how big is the pumpkin? What exactly is a “rather slow oven”?!

Advertisement page from Family Cook Book

What household doesn’t use at least one recipe from a Good Housekeeping cookbook or magazine floating around? This one, published in 1933, has a recipe for turkey that calls for the cook to cover the top with bacon or salt pork (yum!). The recipe is also right above one for rabbit stew and rabbit supreme.

Cover of the 1933 Good Housekeeping Cookbook

Good Housekeeping recipe for roast turkey, rabbit stew, and rabbit supreme










The last cookbook I am going to mention today is my favorite. Published in 1964, “The Magpie Press Typographical Cookbook” is a small, limited edition (1 of 100 copies) cookbook with spunk. Each recipe is short and unique, with each page containing one recipe and the contributor in a different typeface. It seems like this cookbook was created more for appearances than to be used as a real cookbook, but I still think some of the recipes look delicious.

Final page of the cookbook

First Page of The Magpie Press Typographical Cookbook









Recipe for pecan balls from The Magpie Press Typographical Cookbook

Recipe for Bourbon and Water from The Magpie Press Typographical Cookbook. Notice the final sentence- “Serves one- temporarily

I hope that you enjoy some tasty food this week and take the time to be thankful, even if you are playing it safe and staying home this year. Maybe try out one of the recipes I have listed in this post (I would like to make pecan balls. I’m a dessert girl!) and let us know how it goes?

The Special Collections Department will be closed starting Wednesday, November 25th and reopen on Monday, November 30th. Please email us after the holiday at with any questions or requests for scans of our materials and we will be happy to help you.

About Kelsey Hildebrand

Kelsey is GA in the Special Collections department currently pursuing a Master's in Museum Science and Management.
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