Balanced Recipes, Cooking with Mettle/Metal

Sometimes, a cookbook just looks different, which seems more than enough reason to share. Balanced Recipes is a perfect example. The recipes themselves are on index card sized slips of paper, hole punched, and layered throughout the book by subject, allowing you to easily see and access them. Even more striking is the “binding.” It is hard to miss this shiny, metal-encased wonder on the shelf while browsing.

Balanced Recipes was published by the Pillsbury Flour Mills Company in 1933. In includes classics like brownies, the ever-popular chicken croquettes, candied sweet potatoes, and vegetable soup. And, like any good cookbook, it contains some more innovative dishes: baked bananas, creamed fried onions, and tomato pancakes. The introduction to each section offers advice for the home cook. Given the Great Depression-era timing of Balanced Recipes, the emphasis on not wasting is hardly surprising: “Use every edible bit of food that you purchase.” At the same time, the author shares the following:

[I]t it certainly poor menu psychology to plan an entire meal from left-overs. No matter how delicious each separate dish may be, avoid serving a meal consisting of hash, mixed fruit or vegetable salad and a dessert which has appeared in exactly the same form at a previous meal.

In other words, use your left-overs in a new way, don’t just reheat them. After all, a meal should “provide contrasts in texture, color and flavor.”

Balanced Recipes was the product of Mary Ellis Ames, who wrote at least three other publications for the Pillsbury Flour Mills Company in the 1930s and 1940s: Pillsbury’s Cookery Club (1934), Your Guide to Better Baking (1941), and The Three “R”s of Wartime Baking: Rations, ‘Richment and Recipes (1943).

Until next week, always remember to serve something crunchy with your soups: “celery, radishes, salted nuts…or small pieces of crisp toast or crackers spread with flavored butter or fish paste.” The choice is yours. 🙂

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