About Retro-Food

Liz asked in comments about my inspiration for Retro-food. I wish there was one moment where I could pinpoint things and say aha-there it is…she-bang–I need retro food. But there is not just one moment.

You see, I grew up in a household with a mother who loved cookbooks and loved food. She taught me to cook as a way around my complete block when it came to math, fractions in particular. She also wanted me to know how to cook, as her step-mother was NOT a cook at all. (My mother’s mother died when my mom was 5) In fact her step-mother is the sort of person who could burn water trying to boil it. Or at least that is how the story goes. My great-grandmother however, was a spectacular cook and a woman I greatly admire, both in and out of the kitchen.

My mother and I spent many a long weekend day reading cookbooks, just reading them. We would talk about the recipes, decide what we did and didn’t like about them. We would make recipes, often substituting this ingredient for that ingredient. I have recently read that this makes chefs’ and cookbook writers’ hair stand on end. I don’t really care though. We both have a good idea of what will work and what doesn’t. Besides, sometimes you just don’t have the money or the drive to spend gas to go pick up the 3 green onions to make exactly the recipe.

As I grew up, I started to own my own collection of cookbooks. Then my mother sold her home and I received nearly all of HER cookbooks. Needless to say, we have HUNDREDS. I also have my great-grandmother’s recipe box.

I have been online in one way or another for 25 years now. In the past dozen years, it has been a constant in my life. Six years ago (on Retro-food’s birthday) I built my first real website. I had built a couple pages using the Hot Dog Express or whatever AOL used to show pictures of my kids to people, but wasn’t really into it before that. I built Board Q and A at Denise’s suggestion. Ok, at her bullying me into it, but as a surprise. It turned out exceedingly well. (though if you go look at it now, it is dated and needs help. I keep planning and working on ideas for it but it is a huge website and my plans are always bigger than my time and attention span) Denise is crowing I told you so. Anyhow, the website went well. I added on to it. Each year I build something or do something web like for Board Q and A’s birthday aka Sock Day.

Around Christmas 2005, I ran across a post or website somewhere about retro food or diners or something. I said to Denise, that would be a great blog topic! Denise said sure would, you should do it. I poked around, found the domain was available but didn’t do anything about it. I was busy, not motivated, whatever. I had grand plans for a day or two and then dropped it.

Then sock day was coming up and I wanted to do something. I thought about moving my blogs to their own domain, fixing the question library, all sorts of things. Then the Retro Food idea popped back in my head. What an ironic, perfect gift for Denise for Sock Day. Denise is NOT a foodie. She doesn’t enjoy cooking, cookbooks, any of it. So, I went and grabbed the domain, struggled to get a template that had the right look. (Despite the fact that I now build websites for a living, I am NOT a graphics/layout person by nature) (The original template is called banana smoothie) I fidgeted some with the styles and pictures and smoothed out some of the ie rendering issues. Of course, now it looks sort of off in both ie and firefox as opposed to great in Firefox and rotten in ie.

I like Retro-food even if I do say so myself. I like food blogs and talking about food, but so many of them are so…modern. I can’t picture how things taste and work and I really hate having to buy some (usually expensive) exotic ingredient to make one recipe. I love the “food porn” photography…some days. Other days, I think “how silly! I want dinner not an art project.” I love the lovely pots, pans, gadgets and gizmos of kitchens. Yes, I am impressed that folks manage to photograph step by step the making of a masterpiece. But…that isn’t the cooking that goes on at this house. That isn’t the cooking I want to hang around.

I want to be the cooking blog that is like settling down at the kitchen table with friends, the kitchen is full of homey smells, familiar ingredients and chatter. I want to talk about the food stained cookbook, the tattered recipe card, the difficulty of getting Aunt Mary’s deviled eggs to turn out like hers because the holidays aren’t the same without her. Pretty new cookbooks…just don’t turn me on the like a Junior League cookbook from 1963. And of course, I do like to point out the silly, the bizarre and downright yucky in those cookbooks too. There is a lot of room for me to do better with all of that. I will though. Your comments, questions and feedback help.


  1. I have really enjoyed this blog over the last several months! My husband grew up savoring his grandmother’s dated favorites, so I often turn to the old home ec texts for inspiration. Of course, I live in the South, where retro food is never really out of style!

  2. I told you so! Heh.

    And we have thousands of cookbooks, not HUNDREDS.

  3. Aww thanks Meredith. I really appreciate the links too! I get a lot of visitors from your blog. I don’t think retro food goes out of style anywhere…those Yankees..they just feel they should hide it. Insecure I suppose. 😉

    Baking caddy is a good idea. I have done that with cleaning supplies, to keep the moving them room to room down. But, never thought of it with baking. I have a great book somewhere about organizing your kitchen and it had some wonderful ideas for step saving in the kitchen and organizing the kitchen logically. I really need to get it back out and reorganize our kitchen again. When I do…baking caddy sounds like a fab idea.

  4. Retro, you have certainly succeeded in making your cooking blog just like sitting down at the kitchen table. I love the old fashioned simple foods of my childhood. This is a great place to visit every day.
    Thanks for sharing the story.

  5. Thanks Liz!

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