My Recipes For Your Home

Mes Recettes Pour Votre Ménage

[My Recipes For Your Home]

When my grandmother gave me her superb edition of L’Art Culinaire Moderne, she also entrusted me with two much-loved little books, which had belonged to her mother before her.

Mes Recettes Pour Votre Ménage and Mes Recettes Pour Votre Dessert (“My recipes for your home” and “My recipes for your dessert”) are two books in a series of three that were written during World War I, and republished several times after that — I have the 9th edition. The third book was called Mes Recettes Pour Votre Cuisine (“My recipes for your cooking”) but I have just two torn pages from that one — the asparagus section if you must know. My grandmother explained that the author was a popular columnist for La Croix du Nord, a catholic newspaper from the North of France. Under the nom de plume Marmiton (kitchen boy), he answered reader’s questions and shared tips and advice — sort of a Dear Abby for the homemaker.

Mes Recettes Pour Votre Ménage begins with a section on canning and preserving food, with recipes for syrups, liqueur and jams. (In passing, I was very surprised to see that one of them calls for agar-agar, to be purchased from your phamacist.) The second section is called Economie Ménagère (home economics), and holds an enchanting miscellany of tips to take proper care of your home and yourself. How to clean silk stockings and lace, how to revive rancid butter, how to prevent and cure chilblain (engelures in French), how to get rid of wasps, ants or toads, how to make purple ink (that’s a good one: mix red ink with blue ink), how to clean bird wings to decorate your hat, how to salvage a wet fur coat: life-saving advice for every ménagère.

The second book, Mes Recettes Pour Votre Dessert, is dedicated to “young women and especially fiancées, hoping that these humble pages offer a few secrets to create pure and soft happiness in their futur home”. It presents over 750 recipes for cakes, cookies and various desserts. Many are classic French recipes — génoise, moka, financier — but there are also quite a few forgotten or unusual ones, such as chocolate mayonnaise or um, potato madeleines. Most of them give precise measurements and would be very much usable today, but I had to smile at the recipe for babeluttes, a type of candy made with molasses, brown sugar and milk: it calls for 10 centimes (cents) of molasses, “at the pre-war price”. Very handy. There is also a recipe for sorbet à la neige (snow sorbet) in which you simply mix together jam and freshly fallen snow: no quantities given, but I have a feeling it shouldn’t be attempted with 21st-century Paris snow anyway.

Even the ads have a sweet, quaint charm to them: there is one that simply says, “Mangez du bon riz. Le riz Drapeaux est vraiment bon.” (Eat good rice. Drapeaux rice is really good.) Straightforward, efficient, and convincing: wouldn’t it be refreshing if modern-day advertisers tried to recapture that approach?

Those books are written in a warm, kind voice, and have definitely been put to intensive use — much more than any of mine will ever be I’m sure. Dog-eared and well-worn, they’re smeared with cake batter in places, decorated with kids’ doodles in others, and the pages are hanging on to a thread or simply missing. Though I have yet to cook anything from them (you’ll be the first to know when I do), I like to leaf through their fragile pages, picking tips and recipes at random for a fascinating trip through time.

The only problem is, whenever I handle them they sprinkle little specks of yellowed paper everywhere, and I’m anxious not to worsen the shape they’re in — my great-granddaughter would never forgive me.

  • Pesql

    I just love this kind of books, my grandmother has a very old copy of “la cuisine de Tante Marie” (early 20’s)

  • TJ

    They sound delightful! You wrote “a Dear Abby for the homemaker” – I probably won’t be the first American to think: “sounds like ‘Hints from Heloise’ !” By the way, the newly published “The All-American Dessert Book” by Nancy Baggett has directions and measurements for a Maple Snow ‘candy’ – she even suggests shaved or finely ground ice if you don’t have clean snow… [use “maple snow” with the Amazon ‘search inside’ feature for more details!]

  • Neil

    Clotilde, to help preserve your book for your great-granddaughter keep it out of the light as much as possible and in a sealable plastic pouch to keep it away from the air. Both of these items are causing the deteriation you are seeing in the paper which has a high acid content.

    How is your book coming?


  • Neil

    This doesn’t pertain, however… Congratulations on your two 2005 Food Blog Awards. One for Recipes and one for Writing.

    You have earned them both. Well done!

  • What a wonderful treasure, Clotilde! This Christmas, my mother gave me two similar treasures. The first was a cookbook belonging to my great grandmother. She clearly bookmarked favorite recipes with newsclippings. One of the clippings stands out: my great-grandparents’ wedding announcement. I’ve got to be very careful, though; like Clotilde’s books, my book sprinkle bits of paper every time I open it.

    The second is a small notebook of my grandmother’s, with her recipes, many handwritten. That book includes many of the things I remember my grandmother making when I was a child, including a potato dressing for chicken; I can’t wait to make it.

  • Clotilde, what a coincidence: I just spoke about La cuisine raisonnée (Québec) in my blog this weekend. I absolutely adore reading these old books (and can’t believe how much easier our life in the kitchen is nowadays – no ashes to worry about, even oven temperatures, etc.). But tell me, do you actually cook recipes from these books?

  • flo

    I’m smiling, as often, after reading one of your posts…

  • It must be so moving to imagine all the life that has surrounded this
    book! You have the whole picture of an era: the wording of the recipes,
    the ingredients and even the assumptions made by the author (cooking
    desserts is for young women) give you an idea of the universe in which
    your ancestors lived. And on top of that you have their own legacy: the
    little drawings and comments, etc. Make sure to keep it safe for your
    great-granddaughter indeed!

  • sarah

    as neil said, definitely keep your beloved recipe books out of the sun. my father had an original copy of the first ever print of the NY Times. It was framed, locking out air, but the sunlight caused it to deteriorate so badly that when the next owner opened the frame, the paper crumbled into bits.

  • mdvlst

    Posts like this are my very favorite part of your blog. I’ve never yet tried one of your recipes, but how I warm to your affection for these quirky old bits of mundane history!

    Okay, I also have to mention, as somebody who has spent an awful lot of time in archives (even as an employee), that you definitely do NOT want to put your precious books in plastic bags. They need some air circulation, and plastic will contribute to discoloration and the festering of whatever moisture goes in with the book (like remnants of batter . . .). You want a nice sturdy archival box, the kind that every library uses to encase those 100-year-old books whose bindings have fallen off.

  • msue

    Clotilde, your books sound like real treasures, and your goal of protecting them for later generations is wonderful. I strongly urge you to talk to a librarian who deals with old books (or perhaps an archivist) about how to preserve them. I am working through boxes of very old family documents right now, and have found that librarians and archivists who specialize in old papers, etc., to be extremely helpful. Good luck!

  • Clotilde,

    I have recently scanned one of my cookbooks. It is relatively recent, has no sentimental value, and is not fragile or yellowed. But the binding was failing, so I wanted to start working from a copy.

    If you scan it in, you have the option of working from photographic copies or else of using OCR to get the text and recipes into any kind of document or software you want.

    I am very happy with this for cooking. It works much better in my cookbook stand.

    Then, you can preserve the original book for sentimental reasons. You can show your grandmother’s notes and your mother’s doodles to your children!

  • I love the cover, the much thumbed, frayed pages peeking out…what a treasure! Thanks for sharing, Clotilde. How to clean birds wings certainly peaks my curiousity. The oldest cookbook I have is a fifties Suzy Homemaker type I found at a fleamarket with old gravy stains.

  • Clotilde, congrats on winning TWO of the Food Blog Awards today! You deserve it.

  • laurie

    I’m sure you don’t have much time on your hands but scanning them into a digital format would be a great way to preserve the contents and also make it easy to share with others!!!

  • Ignatius Reilly

    Good candidate for listing in Project Gutenberg:

  • Dana

    I love these kind of things! A few years ago, my mom gave me the “how to care for a baby” book that her mother had when my mom was born in the 30’s. It is really funny but heartwarming at the same time!

  • Clotilde, forget the recipes, I just can’t wait to see your fancy new feathered hat!

  • Jay

    perhaps you could translate the recipe from French to English. That would be valuable for others who don’t speak French. *just a thought*

    Congratulations for winning the food blog award.

  • Maple snow is traditional during mapling season in New England. It’s served with pickles, believe it or not.

  • if you are just after preservation of the books and in no way planning of preserving them to sell at an auction later on, i’d suggest going to a store where they photocopy, laminate and bind things. sort of an office/business services shop. carefully tear off the pages one by one and have each page laminated(thin laminates) with a 1 to 1.5 inch margin/extra laminate on the lefthand side and 0.5 inch on the other sides. then, have them ring bind these laminated pages together.

    a bit costly and the book will double or triple in thickness and weight, but that will keep the pages from disintegrating. likewise, you can have the pages photocopied first and binded as a separate book. i doubt the publisher will mind by now. then you can use the photocopied book and keep the laminated original copies somewhere safe.

    you do have shops where they laminate stuff there, right? if not, let me know. i might be able to help.

  • Congratulations on your win of two food blog awards Clotilde.

  • Alice

    for some lucky person, ABE shows a copy of Menage available at ISABELLEMAESEELE

    Clotilde, everytime I come by you have something wonderful and charming to brighten my day.

  • Your post just reminded me of a cookbook I bought about 7 years ago from bouquiniste by the Seine, called Le Cordon Bleu Parisien (1920 ca). For some reason, I haven’t looked through it all that much – it just sits amidst my other cookbooks untouched. You’ve just inspired me to go pull it down and explore it a bit!

  • Clotilde, I love how beautifully you pay attention to the world. These worn books deserve all our care, and you give them that care. I would love to peruse them with you.

    On another note, congratulations on your awards! So wonderfully deserved.

  • Thank you for all your comments, and thank you for the book preservation tips!

  • Shannon

    My father handed down dozens of cookbooks that were given to him by his mother and her mother. I treasure them and look to them daily for not only recipes, but for the advice they give on how long to cook certain cuts of meat and how to cut a cake without crumbs falling everywhere.

    You might want to bring them to a place that can maybe copy the pages so that you can preserve the original while using it’s sage advice and it’s fabulous recipes.

  • Shannon

    Whoops. Didn’t read everyone’s comments. Looks like you have gotten great advice from those above.

  • How priceless these gifts! How exciting to find the stamps… I found it very surprising that one ofthe recipes called for agar-agar from a book that dates?? Even today most people don’t know what it is. Are you going to can your own fruits? That would make a lovely entry.

  • Marjolaine

    Si les livres sont jaunes c’est probablement qu’ils sont acides. Tu peux saupoudrer du bicarbonate de soude sur les pages pour ralentir le processus de vieillissement.

  • Kate

    I know how you feel about those two books. I am the lucky recipient of my great-grandmother’s Julia Child French Cooking cookbook in which there are shopping lists, newspaper articles and even a pressed 4-leaf clover. What great insights to great ladies – to look through their cookbooks!

  • Marion

    yesterday we tried the chicken-pineapple and ginger brochettes. They were delicious.
    Keep up your good work,

    many regards


  • Clothilde

    Comment ramener du beurre rance à la vie? Il doit être intéressant, ton livre.


  • laurence

    chere clotilde, cela fait un bail que je visite ton site sans savoir que tes fameux cousins dont tu parles souvent, je les connais bien puisque je suis la marraine de julien, le mari de guenola.j’ai une petite question: ou trouves-tu à paris de la baking soda que tu mets dans tes, j’en achete quand je vais à londres pour pouvoir faire les gateaux de nigella lawson (je te conseille ses livres de recettes!!!)mais je ne savais pas qu’on en trouvait à paris.julien m’a dit que tu préparais un livre, chouette, j’ai hate de l’acheter. merci pôur ton blog qui est genial. bises laurence

  • Marion

    I also got my grantmothers cookbook as well as one of my mother. Whenever I am looking for a real classic recipe, they still are of great help. I am really happy with them. When I find such an old cookbook at a fleemarket I usually buy them, just to give them an new home, because they once belonged to someone who used them with pleasure.

    Best whishes


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