Calgary

Vintage cuisine on the rise as TikTokers, Redditors dig up old recipe boxes and cookbooks

Many people turn to their computer or device when they're searching for a recipe or saving a favourite, but platforms like TikTok and Reddit have renewed interest in an old tradition: the recipe box.

Food trends columnist Elizabeth Chorney-Booth explains why recipes were so wild in the '50s and '60s

Some are now scouring garage and estate sales searching for boxes filled with family favourites — or bygones like tuna salad Jell-O, Swedish meat rings and chocolate sauerkraut cake. (Back in Time for Dinner / CBC)

Many people turn to their computer or phone when they're searching for a recipe or saving a favourite, but platforms like TikTok and Reddit have renewed interest in an old tradition: the recipe box.

Some are now scouring garage and estate sales searching for boxes filled with family favourites — or bygones like tuna salad Jell-O, Swedish meat rings and chocolate sauerkraut cake.

Food columnist Elizabeth Chorney-Booth told The Homestretch on Wednesday that the trend is likely born out of a quest to stay occupied and posting on social media during COVID-19.

"They've been digging up old recipe books, and even better, people's grandmothers' recipe cards, and making all of these recipes that probably seem pretty wacky to anyone who grew up more recently than the 1970s," Chorney-Booth said.

"[And] because we're talking about social media, the weirder the better … a lot of this is more along the lines of, 'What does this weird recipe actually taste like?'"

Why all the weird food? Pilsbury, Jell-O and accessibility

According to Chorney-booth, a lot of the cookbooks with wilder recipes were published by companies like Jell-O or Pilsbury in the '50s and '60s.

"They were bending over backwards to get people to use their products as much as possible, so that's why you have things like lime Jell-O with shrimp and asparagus tips floating in it being passed off as a salad," she said.

Meanwhile, recipes for TikTok recreations such as tomato soup cake or vinegar pie were likely conceptualized based on what was on hand at the time, and food was less accessible.

"Before, you know, you could get an avocado in the middle of January, just a few blocks away at the grocery store," Chorney-Booth said.

But for her, the ultimate finds are the recipe boxes that tell a story.

"I don't know anything about the people who made the [recipe] boxes that I have, but I love looking at their handwriting," Chorney-Booth said.

"The magical thing about those recipe boxes filled with personalized cards is, they're things that people actually made for their families, things that home cooks clipped out of newspapers or had passed on to them by neighbours.

"So, you can actually find some real gems."

With files from The Homestretch

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