Why would someone tuck a recipe for Chicken and Spaghetti Casserole in the pages of Michael Crichton's Sphere? Could that Dutch Apple Cake be someone's long-lost family recipe? Michael Popek has spent years with these mysteries while collecting recipes from the used books at his shop, first for his blog Handwritten Recipes and now for this cookbook. If you covet your grandma's recipe box and love paging through old church cookbooks, Handwritten Recipes is one more source of vintage recipes you'll definitely want to check out.
• Who wrote it: Michael Popek
• Who published it: Perigee
• Number of recipes: about 80
• Recipes for right now: Cranberry Nut Bread Ring, Maple Syrup Doughnuts, Noodle Pudding, Italian Pie, Ham 'n' Lamb Kabobs, Paul's Pumpkin bars, Almond Christmas Balls, Springerle, Dutch Apple Cake, Butterscotch Yule Log
• Other highlights: It has nothing to do with the actual recipes, but I absolutely love seeing which recipes were found in which books. We find Chicken Legs in Catch-22, Stuffed Peppers in The ABC of Casseroles, Kosher Dill Pickles in The Spy Who Loved Me, and Fried Spinach in A Moveable Feast. I can't help but imagine the chain of events that led that particular recipe to find its way into the pages of its book, and then be subsequently forgotten there.
You'll need to bring a bit of ingenuity and an adventurous spirit if you actually plan to make these recipes. Most of them come from the era of recipe writing where little more information is given than the ingredients and the oven temperature. Still, there are some intriguing recipes in here that could be well-worth bringing back into the light of day.
• Who would enjoy this book? Collectors of church cookbooks and vintage recipes (especially those of you who like the challenge of half-explained vintage recipes!), food historians.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Handwritten Recipes: A Bookseller's Collection of Curious and Wonderful Recipes Forgotten Between the Pages by Michael Popek
• Visit Michael Popek's website: Handwritten Recipes
(Images: Emma Christensen)