Pamphlet Collection: Retro Recipes

The Library’s Pamphlet Collection, housed in the gallery of the main Reading Room, comprises government reports, research papers, leaflets and circulars, and instructional manuals, to name but a few. A more surprising element of the collection is the twentieth-century pamphlets containing recipes. The shelf marks relating to Nutrition naturally furnish most of them, especially shelf marks BEXM, BEXN, BEXP and BEXY.  

They include British logistical pamphlets from WWII and the 1950s on how to feed armed forces, run a meals-on-wheels service, or cook under emergency conditions. 

The front cover of the pamphlet "RAF Manual of Cooking and Dietary," dated April 1942. It is a faded orange colour and stamped with several stamps relating to the LSHTM Centre for Nutrition.
Front cover of R.A.F. Manual of Cooking and Dietary: Promulgated for the Information and Guidance of All Concerned.

Recipe books

There are also recipe and diet pamphlets from public information campaigns by governments and research bodies. These date from the 1930s to the 1980s and show what authorities in different countries wanted people to eat. Several also lay out optimal daily menus: 

A scan of the publication 'An Economical Budget for the Family with Menus and Recipes' showing a sample menu of four meals. Breakfast is porridge, milk, toast, margarine, tea, sugar, oranges. Dinner is brown stew, mixed vegetables, potato, custard tart. Tea is grated cheese on toast, wholemeal bread, margarine, tea, sugar, vinegar cake. Supper is milk. The total weights of ingredients in pints and ounces is given in a column on the right.
An Economical Budget for the Family with Menus and Recipes, p. 9.
A scan of the publication 'Food for Health in Hawaii' showing a meal plan entitled 'Good diet for moderately active adults: Hawaiian.' Breakfast is papaya with lime, rolled oats with milk, wholewheat bread, butter, guava jelly, cocoa and evaporated milk. Lunch is canned salmon with tomatoes and green onions, limu, poi, sliced fresh pineapple. Dinner is beef stew with carrots and potatoes, brown or partially polisted rice, fresh watercress, soft custard on sliced bananas. It ends with the note that poi can be used to replace oats and brown rice at breakfast and dinner.
Food for Health in Hawaii: Notes on Choosing Food and Planning Meals, with Recipes and Menus, p. 17.

These were published a year apart in the UK and Hawaii. It seems like stew was an offering common to the two, though! 

Some of the covers are really evocative of the period: 

Front cover of 'Food for Health in Hawaii' with green-blue graphics depicting leaves, fruits, and eating implements, interspersed with the different words for 'food' in languages spoken in Hawaii.
Food for Health in Hawaii: Notes on Choosing Food and Planning Meals, with Recipes and Menus.
Front cover of 'South Pacific Cookery Book' with a woodcut-style brown graphic depicting different foods and cookery methods, including fish, pig, pineapple, frying pan, log fire, cooking pot.
South Pacific Cookery Book.

Aesthetic concerns aside, the content of each of these two books shows efforts by universities and colonial administrators to communicate their opinions on nutrition. For more on the South Pacific Health Service’s nutrition projects, see Sarah Hartley’s article on “Interweaving Ideas and Patchwork Programmes: Nutrition Projects in Colonial Fiji, 1945–60.” 

Promotional material

Finally, we have several pamphlets circulated by various marketing bodies from the US and the UK related to specific foodstuffs. They feature some especially delightful illustrations and photographs: 

A colour photograph from American Rice: My Home Cook Book depicting rice-stuffed green peppers. The rice is brownish in colour and the peppers are sitting in a gravy on the plate.
American Rice: My Home Cook Book, p. 3
A black-and-white photograph from American Rice: My Home Cook Book depicting egg rice salad with the recipe printed below. It consists of 8oz medium grain rice, 1/4 pint mayonnaise, 2 tbsp cream, 1/2 small onion, finely chopped, 4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced, 1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced, 2oz seedless raisins, seasoning, lettuce, chopped parsley.
American Rice: My Home Cook Book, p. 9.

The rice dishes above come courtesy of American Rice: My Home Cook Book. This and “Miss Fluffy Rice” (pictured below) were produced by the US Rice Export Development Association in the 1960s. 

The cover of Miss Fluffy Rice depicts, in black, white, and red, a spoon with a human face and rice for hair wearing an apron and throwing more rice on to a bride and groom, who have their backs turned to her.
Let Miss Fluffy Rice haunt your wedding (and cook for two, four, or many more). From Miss Fluffy Rice: Recipes.
A zoomed-in crop of Miss Fluffy Rice and the unwitting bride and groom she is throwing rice at.
They probably shouldn’t look behind them. 

Rice is not the only foodstuff in the Pamphlet Collection, either. Both cheese and dry milk also get their time in the spotlight. The celery gratin pictured below was perhaps never going to be a looker, but the Cheese Bureau was undeterred. The Oxford English Dictionary credits the Cheese Bureau with coining the term “ploughman’s lunch” in the 1950s. Some schools of thought attribute it instead to a campaign by the Milk Marketing Board and the English Country Cheese Council in the 1960s (see the Encyclopedia Britannica). 

A black-and-white photograph of celery au gratin from the pamphlet 'Cheese on the Menu.' The recipe, printed below, consists of the ingredients 25 heads celery, 5lb grated cheese, 8 pints bechamel sauce, 2lb breadcrumbs, seasoning, and bacon rolls to garnish.
Unclear why the Cheese Bureau didn’t go for The Cheese Board. From Cheese on the Menu: Costed Recipes for Fixed Budget Caterers, p. 12.

Often collected by the Library not long after they were first published, these pamphlets and the recipes they contain now offer a fascinating – and sometimes bizarre – glimpse into how institutions across the world imagined an ideal diet. 

The LSHTM Archives hold wartime leaflets from the Ministry of Food, including Christmas recipes. The Library catalogue is searchable for titles and authors of articles from several domestic science publications from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries. These include Good Housekeeping and Harper’s Bazaar, hosted by Cornell University Library. The full repository is accessible free here for those who prefer to browse. 


If you’d like to take a look for yourself at some recipe pamphlets, below is a bibliography including direct links to the Library catalogue:

Cookbook pamphlets: 

  Rational Diet with Local Recipes. Bathurst: Gambia Nutrition Committee, 1939. BEXN.146 1939 

  Wijnhoven, A.T.E., and K. Ezekoye. Recipes Used for Nutrition Education in the Home Gardens Project Ilesha, Nigeria. 2nd ed. Amsterdam, 1970. BEXN.149 1970 

  Good Food Recipes in Child Nutrition. Entebbe: Mwanamugimu Nutrition Services, 1987. UXR 1987 

  Sister Prisca. Preparing Food: 100 Gold Coast Recipes. 2nd ed. Cape Coast: Catholic Mission Press, 1948. BEXN.148 1948 

  Miller, Carey D. (Carey Dunlap), and Helen Yonge. Lind. Food for Health in Hawaii: Notes on Choosing Food and Planning Meals, with Recipes and Menus. Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1942. 

  Hoar, June W. South Pacific Cookery Book. Suva, Fiji: South Pacific Health Service, Nutrition Section, 1961. 

  Cathcart, Ed. P. An Economical Budget for the Family with Menus and Recipes … London: University of London Press, n.d. BEXP.46 ? 

  Ridgway, U.A., and E.A. Webb. From the Farm and Garden to the Kitchen and Store Cupboard. Leicester: Leicestershire and Rutland Federation of Women’s Institutes, 1938. BEXN 1939  

Wartime and emergency: 

  R.A.F. Manual of Cooking and Dietary: Promulgated for the Information and Guidance of All Concerned. S.l: s.n., n.d. BEXN (p.) 1942 

  A Companion to Emergency Cooking. London: W.V.S., 1957. BEXN 1957 

  Handbook on Meals-on-Wheels. London: H.M.S.O., 1958. BEXN 1958 

Promotional material: 

  American Rice: My Home Cook Book. S.l: My Home, 1960. BEXN 1960  

  Cheese on the Menu: Costed Recipes for Fixed Budget Caterers. London: The Cheese Bureau, 1960. BEXN 1960s?    

  Reynolds, Mary. Miss Fluffy Rice: Recipes. London: U.S. Rice Export Development Association, 1963. BEXN 1963  

  How to Use Whole and Nonfat Dry Milk. Washington, D.C: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1949. BEXN 1949