Budget Cooking

Budget Cook BookJean Allen’s Budget Cook Book
by Vivian Reade

Submitter: The cover of this book was so fantastically retro I knew the inside would be a rewarding nostalgia trip. Although recipes come in and out of style, the nutrition advice in here probably needs updating and if this book is to help out some poor college student doing their own cooking there’s probably a more attractive, up to date version out there. I think this deserves to be featured for the CLASSIC photos of women shopping in hats and gloves inside! Some of the more bizarre recipes inside include “Crisp Cheese Baskets” which are basically hollowed out loaves of bread with cheese grated over them and the Banana Ambrosia recipe.

Holly: What was the fascination with bananas back in the 1950s? And “creamed foods,” too. The bread page (below) suggests filling bread and toast with “creamed foods.” I look like The People of Walmart when I grocery shop, not dressed to the nines like the lady in the picture below.





    1. Jim, good for you! But the woman in the picture is not wearing an A-line dress. It looks like a shirtwaist dress, although I can’t discern whether it does indeed button down the front. If not, I guess it is just a dress, showing some vestiges of Dior’s New Look (tight waist, voluminous skirt).

  1. I think those bread baskets, with or without cheese, sound marvellous. Imagine a yummy, creamy [sic] shrimp salad thingie or skagenröra (google it) served inside what is basically a chunk of buttery toast. Not to be sneezed at. I am making a mental note of this.

  2. What skill level is this designed for? If you can make the roast and cake pictured on the cover, I am guessing you won’t need directions for how to mash a banana.

  3. I think the Banana Thing in the 1950’s might be related to the loss of one type of banana to disease. It was “replaced” with a different type, so maybe lots and lots of marketing was needed to overcome the perception. Or people were just gaga for bananas. The creamed foods are just a mystery. . .

  4. I love the angled slices of banana on the Banana Ambrosia, although it looks ghastly in black and white (although I wouldn’t like it in color either , as I hate two of the three ingredients…).

  5. And to think, that all this time, I’d been putting my salads in the serving bowl. Thank you, ye olde cookbook, for showing me the error of my ways.

  6. In the 50s, the previous widespread banana variety had just been almost wiped out due to disease, and the Cavendish banana (the current banana you’ll find in US supermarkets) was coming into popularity. I think bananas were probably seen as exciting because there had been a period when they were harder to find in supermarkets. (The shortage of Gros Michel bananas was the story behind “Yes, We Have No Bananas.”)

    As for creamed foods–it’s a way to use up leftovers in a time when you can’t microwave them. And with creamed meats (like chicken), you can not only heat the chicken without drying it out, but you can stretch it if there’s not a ton leftover.

    The thing I always like about old “budget” cookbooks is that what’s a cheap food then may not be cheap now. (When I was a kid, we ate beef more often than chicken because it was significantly cheaper. Then, when I got out on my own, I could get chicken a lot cheaper than anything but the cheapest ground beef.)

    1. Oh-h, when I was a kid in the 60s my mom used to make creamed salt cod on mashed potatoes because salt cod was cheap, and I just loved it. She stopped making it when salt cod became expensive

  7. Looks like they’re showing the salad unassembled, so that’s why it’s not in the bowl – yet.

    Serving creamed food in bread bowls is still a thing. Though it’s mostly clam chowder. Also stews and chillis for the non-creamed fair.

    As for eating on a budget – my vocal coach told me once about how he and his brothers and sisters thought it was a great treat when their mom served white bread covered in brown gravy. He didn’t realize until years later that the reason for those meals was because his parents couldn’t afford to buy food that week. And mom was a single mother of my three brothers until she and dad met and married and she served so many mashed potatoes because she couldn’t afford anything else that one of my brothers still hates them to this day. He’ll only eat instant.

    1. Believe it or not we had this all the time as a kid. Usually with a bit of shredded roast beef (and I do mean a bit) Mom would tear up the bread too, just to be fancy I guess. For reasons known only to her, she called this duck soup. 🙂

      1. My mom used to do it with left over roast beef and I still do a version with Thanksgiving leftovers (turkey, stuffing, and gravy, though I like to toast and butter the bread first) – but she called it s**t on a shingle.

        I know that’s suppose to be chipped beef and gravy, but she’s never served chipped beef. Just left over roast beef.

  8. If these are Jean Allen’s recipes, who then is Vivian Reade? On a less puzzled note, I remember Toast Cups! I made them with my Girl Scout troop in the gas company’s demonstration kitchen. I was very taken with them. It was for some merit badge or other. Then I went home and made them for my family — I think we put creamed chicken in them.

  9. Due to the fact that there are two kinds of scoring buttons, a “like” one and a “LikeBtn”.com [?] which needs to be downloaded, I cannot give a “like” to the comments I want.
    What is going on?

    1. I think I’ve fixed that. Now showing “Like” button on both the bottom of the post and in the comments. Tested in IE, Chrome, and Firefox. Maybe refresh your page? On my end it is fixed – although I did see that earlier today. Our trial period of that new plugin expired, and I had to upgrade it. Done!

    1. A have a ton of old cookbooks that include recipes for “crisp crackers”- stale saltines dipped water, dotted with butter and baked. I’m willing to bet that these were invented by someone too poor/thrifty/stubborn to throw out stale crackers.

      Personally, I have a secret soft spot for anything in the croquette family. They’re basically balls of “creamed whatever” (only with the leftover meat ground up and mixed with a smaller amount of thicker white sauce, rather than leaving the meat in chunks and mixing it with more, thinner white sauce), breaded and deep fried. I’d much rather eat crunchy tuna croquettes than creamed tuna on toast, even though the ingredients are nearly identical.

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