The thing that I love about buying old cookbooks at secondhand shops is that sometimes they come with old newspaper clippings wedged in between the pages, or other notes written directly onto the pages.
A copy of Jessie Marie DeBoth's Cook Book for All Occasions (1938) came stuffed with assorted clippings. Mostly from the Boston Sunday Post, and circa 1940-51, they included recipes for Apple Grapenut Pudding, Spaghetti a la Creole, Griddle Cakes, and Cape Cod Pudding.
Mixed in with the clippings were several index cards on which were neatly written recipes for things like Irish Bread, and Gold Cake (or Silver). My long ago cooking compatriot was someone who wrote down just the ingredients, not the instructions. Who also put a line through recipes, presumably if they were unsatisfactory, and who wrote one or two words next to recipes like "omit raisins" and "for party". It is like peering into another home cooks mind, and frankly it give me a thrill.
Another book I picked up, The Early American Cookbook by Hyla O'Connor, has the following inscription written on the inside cover:
I would like to know who Roger was writing this to and also I think it is very sweet. To date no one has given me an inscribed cookbook and I suppose that is how I will recognize my own Prince Charming.
Sadly the newspaper form seems to be dying out so perhaps the future of clipping recipes will be archived web links. I know that on Wednesdays I love to browse online papers from across the country to see what people are cooking, trawling for ideas and trends, and mostly just drooling over recipes and photographs. But there is also something immensely enjoyable about spreading the paper out on the kitchen table and cutting out recipes that you think you'd make one day.
If I had to clip a virtual recipe for my digital cookbook, it would be the Chocolate Pudding made with tofu from the Mark Bittman column in the New York Times. Hands down this is my favorite dessert recipe this summer. Even if you think you cannot stomach tofu, I promise you, you cannot tell there is tofu in this recipe. It is fast and easy and not terribly bad for you either, plus if you make it with bittersweet chocolate, I am pretty sure it is suitable for vegans too.
A couple of tips: use the best chocolate you can find - don't be chintzy here, I don't have a blender so I just whizz it up in the Cusinart, you can leave out the spices if you want and just use very nice vanilla, it is very nice topped with whipped cream for those not dieting and lastly, the best kind of tofu to use for this recipe is the boxed kind.
Mexican Chocolate Pudding
(from the New York Times, 05/19/09)
3/4 c sugar
1 lb silken tofu
8 oz high quality bitter or semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp chili powder, or more to taste
chocolate shavings - optional
In a small pot, combine sugar with 3/4 cup water; bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.
Put all ingredients except for chocolate shavings in a blender and puree until completely smooth, stopping machine to scrape down sides if necessary. Divide among 4 to 6 ramekins and chill for at least 30 minutes. If you like, garnish with chocolate shavings before serving.
As for the recipes clipped from the real newspaper all those years ago, below is one of those recipes, and it seems just as easy. I might try to make it, although the more I think about it I am not entirely positive that I could stomach baked cornflakes in milk... hmmm. I will get back to you on that.
Cape Cod Pudding
(From the Boston Traveler, 12/2/40 - pg 26)
1 qt cornflakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c molasses
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Stir all together and put pieces of butter on top. Place the dish in which the pudding is to be cooked into a pan of water and place both in oven. Bake for three-quarters to one hour in a moderate oven.