Thanksgiving Traditions & Memories: My Grandmother’s Pies

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to find recipes and learn more about one of our favorite parts of Thanksgiving: pies!

One of my earliest Thanksgiving memories is of my grandmother and great-grandmother waking up before everyone and starting the meal preparations at 4 a.m. On that annual feast day, multiple tables would be heavy with all kinds of food, including pies – all kinds of pies. I must admit that back then the only pie I cared about was pumpkin, but there were other choices on that table as well, including mincemeat, apple, and cherry.

photo of a pumpkin pie

Photo: pumpkin pie. Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture; Wikimedia Commons.

Who doesn’t like pie? Pie is something our ancestors ate and in fact has been around since the ancient Egyptians. This time of the year focuses on pie as a dessert, but originally most pies were made of meat, appearing in England around the 12th century. Fruit pies came around later in the 1500s. Pie was even a food eaten by the earliest English settlers to America.*

So what pies are your family favorites? Are you a pie baker? Looking to try something new this Thanksgiving? Here are a few pie recipes from yesteryear, as found in the pages of GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

Prize-Winning Pie Recipes

You can’t go wrong with an award-winning pie recipe, and old newspapers are full of examples from competitions hosted by newspaper food columns, food companies, and other groups. For those who are fans of cherry pie, this recipe from Karan Ann Gunning of Mulberry, Indiana, won the 27th National Cherry Pie Baking Contest in 1959.

photo of a slice of cherry pie

Photo: slice of cherry pie. Credit: Evan-Amos; Wikimedia Commons.

Aside from frozen cherries, the filling consists of sugar, tapioca, red food coloring, almond extract, lemon juice and butter. The pie crust is completed with a cherry decoration.

article about a prize-winning recipe for cherry pie

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 26 February 1959, section 5, page 16

Newspaper food columns did more than provide recipes and tips; they also held contests (see Newspaper Recipe Contests: Was Your Ancestor a Contest Winner?).

The winner of this 1934 Trenton Evening Times (New Jersey) contest is a rhubarb pie topped off with a meringue.

photo of a rhubarb pie

Photo: rhubarb pie. Credit: Hayford Peirce; Wikimedia Commons.

Miss Grace Martin from Trenton won the top prize of $5 for her recipe, while the other recipe winners brought home $1.

article about a prize-winning rhubarb pie recipe, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 5 July 1934

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 5 July 1934, page 13

Thanksgiving Means Pumpkin Pie

At Thanksgiving time, the best pie is obviously pumpkin pie.

photo of a slice of pumpkin pie

Photo: slice of pumpkin pie. Credit: Evan-Amos; Wikimedia Commons.

Let’s face it, what’s not to like about this traditional holiday favorite? And speaking of traditional – this 1910 newspaper article gives the pumpkin pie recipe “the Pilgrim mothers used to make.”

article about a pumpkin pie recipe, Grand Forks Daily Herald newspaper article 30 November 1910

Grand Forks Daily Herald (Grand Forks, North Dakota), 30 November 1910, section 2, page 9

This 1953 newspaper article provides a pumpkin pie recipe that uses canned pumpkin to make two versions of the pie. One version, referred to as a “refrigerator pie,” involves a double boiler and gelatin.

article about pumpkin pie recipes, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 1 November 1953

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 1 November 1953, section vi, page 6

Now, if you’re tired of the same old pumpkin pie, consider a variation – like one of my favorites: the Pumpkin Chiffon Pie. This interesting recipe for the chiffon pie includes a crust of saltine crackers.

photo of a pumpkin chiffon pie, Boston Herald newspaper article 16 November 1972

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 16 November 1972, page 26

article about a pumpkin chiffon pie recipe, Boston Herald newspaper article 16 November 1972

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 16 November 1972, page 26

I’m Not Eating That

Ok let’s face it. Everyone has a favorite pie which means there is probably a pie you dislike. So here are a few recipes that would probably cause me to skip dessert this year if they were served.

I don’t come from a big cranberry-eating family, so I was a little surprised to see this Cranberry Pie recipe from 1942.

photo of a cranberry-pecan pie

Photo: cranberry-pecan pie. Credit: BenFrantzDale; Wikimedia Commons.

But in light of food rationing during World War II it makes sense why this pie would have been suggested. The article advises:

In view of sugar rationing, it might be well this year to double up on the cranberries and dessert by serving the cranberries in a pie.

The other recipe adds orange juice to pumpkin pie, which is not the pumpkin pie I’m used to.

article about a pumpkin pie recipe, Advocate newspaper article 4 December 1942

Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 4 December 1942, page 18

Mincemeat Pie

Another pie that I often hear associated with the holidays is mincemeat.

photo of a mincemeat pie

Photo: mincemeat pie. Credit: Alcinoe; Wikimedia Commons.

According to the History Channel website, mincemeat originated in the 13th century when the Crusaders brought back exotic spices and ingredients from the Holy Land. Those spices were combined with “fruit and meat to make their supply of protein last longer.” The spices became associated with Christmas and the gifts presented to the Christ child by the Three Wise Men.** Now, my guess is that mincemeat pie is not as popular today as it once was. A few generations back, it was regularly served in my family. One side made this pie with meat and the other with only fruit. If you’re confused about what mincemeat pie really is, this 1995 nutrition column provides some direction.

article about mincemeat pie, Aberdeen Daily News newspaper article 19 December 1995

Aberdeen Daily News (Aberdeen, South Dakota), 19 December 1995, page 10

If your holiday tradition includes mincemeat pie, these 1911 examples include some recipes with meat as an ingredient and others with strictly fruit.

article about mincemeat pie recipes, Oregonian newspaper article 19 November 1911

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 19 November 1911, section 5, page 6

And because Thanksgiving is so busy with all the prep work and cooking, I think this recipe for mincemeat pie is probably the best one of them all because of its simplicity.

article about a mincemeat pie recipe, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 19 November 1959

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 19 November 1959, page 18

What pie are you preparing this Thanksgiving? Is it from a recipe that’s been in the family a long time? Share your pie memories – and recipes – with us in the comments section.


* History of Pies. American Pie Council.
** Mincemeat: It’s What’s for (Christmas) Dinner, History.

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Scary Old Recipes from Your Family’s Past

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to find recipes that were common in our ancestors’ time – but seem a little “scary” to a modern audience.

Do you have any scary recipes in your family? No, I don’t mean that Halloween dessert decorated with ghosts and bats, but truly scary family recipes that you are afraid someone in the family will serve at Thanksgiving or your grandmother served 50 years ago. These old family recipes are scary because of their ingredients or method of preparation. I know there are a few from my childhood I hope to never be served again.

So what about your family and ancestors? What scary old recipes did they have in their recipe box? GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives are for more than just looking up biographical information about your ancestors – you can also find stories about their lives and the times they lived in, including popular and not-so-popular family recipes. Consider some of these old recipes that may have been too familiar in your family tree.

Old Jello Recipes

Ok, I come from a family that loved to make all kinds of Jello desserts. But there was a time that Jello was popular in savory dishes as well. You might be familiar with the more interesting gelatin luncheon dishes made popular in the 1950s, but those types of recipes also existed in previous decades.

This newspaper article, titled “All Members Diet Happily When Gourmets Plan Menu,” seems a bit misleading to me. While this Lime Tuna Mold is low calorie, I don’t know if I believe that the members of this group enjoyed eating this dish that is a combination of gelatin, tuna, green olives, celery, onions and a Hollandaise Sauce.

recipes, Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper article 27 February 1964

Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 27 February 1964, page 34

A 1970s-era recipe for Coleslaw Souffle isn’t as scary as jellified tuna but I had to include it here because it provides the name of the submitter and her street address. What a great family history find!

recipe for coleslaw souffle, Greensboro Daily News newspaper article 24 October 1971

Greensboro Daily News (Greensboro, North Carolina), 24 October 1971, page 90

This 1923 recipe starts off like many familiar gelatin desserts – but its inclusion of Thousand Island dressing and whipped cream seems pretty scary to me.

jello and cottage cheese recipe, Seattle Daily Times newspaper article 8 July 1923

Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, Washington), 8 July 1923, page 29

Regional American Delicacies

Today, most people are far removed from the source of their food. Meat production is something most of us would rather not think about. And it would seem that many in today’s world have strong opinions about what types of meat they will eat and what they won’t.


It wasn’t too long ago that recipes were very explicit about how to prepare certain meals. What makes some modern-day cooks squeamish was once everyday knowledge. Case in point: this 1908 recipe for Scrapple, a.k.a. Pon Haus. This dish may possibly be the first pork recipe invented in America – and today, November 9th, is National Scrapple Day. For those not familiar with this dish, it’s a combination of pork scraps, corn meal, flour and spices. It is a food that is more familiar to those in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States due to its Pennsylvania Dutch roots. (To learn more, including photos and modern-day recipes, Google the word “Scrapple.”)

Scrapple is one of those dishes that harkens to a time when meat/food was not wasted. Scrapple allows the maker to take advantage of all parts of the butchered hog, as this recipe from the column “Womanly Answers to Womanly Questions” explains.

scrapple recipe, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper article 8 October 1908

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 8 October 1908, page 13

Turtle Soup

While still consumed in certain parts of the country (especially in New Orleans), turtle soup was much more popular in the 19th century. Some recipes I’ve seen from the 1800s go into great length about how to dispatch the turtle prior to cooking. The following recipe from 1896 doesn’t go into great detail about killing the turtle – but is probably just enough to border on scary for modern audiences. Note the use of calves’ heads in the recipe. Calves’ heads are usually the main ingredient in mock turtle soup.

Tip: If you ever visit New Orleans, turtle soup is still served at a variety of fine restaurants including Commander’s Palace, Pascal’s and Upperline. It’s actually quite tasty.

turtle soup recipe, Irish American Weekly newspaper article 14 December 1896

Irish American Weekly (New York, New York), 14 December 1896, page 6

Squirrel Recipes

What constitutes a scary ingredient for some people is not that out of the ordinary for others. Some foods are strongly tied to a specific region. Probably the most argued about ingredient is meat. One example is squirrel. If I were to talk about eating squirrel in Southern California most people would think I was joking, but in some parts of the country and for our ancestors, it was just another protein source.

In case you need some squirrel recipe ideas, here are three from a 1900 newspaper. It’s pointed out in this set of recipes, Squirrel Pot Pie, Squirrel Pie and Baked Squirrel, that rabbit could be substituted for squirrel.

squirrel recipes, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper article 31 July 1900

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 31 July 1900, page 7

The Scary Price of Beauty

Multiple articles could be written about some of the scary recipes and products sold to our families in the name of cures and beauty aids. Cookbooks from the early 19th century included sections on remedies because the housewife had to know not only how to nourish her family, but how to heal them in the event of sickness. Other types of recipes like those for household cleaners and personal care could also be found.

In this 1906 example, milk baths are touted for a fine complexion. To take advantage of this, the article gives instructions that women should first clean their face with wadding soaked with a mixture of olive oil, cognac oil and cologne. Then the milk bath should be applied and allowed to dry so that you can rub raw potato or cucumbers on your face. Now so far that’s not too out of the ordinary. Some people swear by using olive oil on their skin. But it’s the warning that I find a little scary: “Women sometimes find that the milk seems to burn the face at first, but they must persevere and the good effect will soon be perceived.” You should also drink a lot of milk during the day and continue these treatments for a “long time” in order for it to work. But because this idea is said to come from Paris, it must work.

How to Take Milk Baths, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 24 July 1906

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 24 July 1906, page 5

What Are the Scary Recipes in Your Family History?

Scary recipes are an important part of family history. What makes family history interesting to everyone, not just those genealogy-obsessed, are the stories. Knowing more about the times our ancestors lived in and the food they ate help make their lives more relevant to us; it places them in context. It also can drive home important aspects of their lives. Eating foods not familiar to us today, eating almost everything, and combining unique flavors speaks to what was available, not wasting resources, frugality, and trying to make food interesting with what was available. Social history, the study of the everyday lives of people, makes family history something that will interest even the non-genealogists in your family.

What scary recipes did your family eat? Start searching for them today in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives – and tell us about them in the comments section.

Share Your Recipes with Us!

GenealogyBank has a shared Pinterest board where you can share your old family recipes. If you have a family recipe you’d like to share, send us a Pinterest group board request and you can pin your recipe on our board to share with the community.

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Betty Crocker: America’s Favorite Fictional Cook

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to learn more about an icon in American cooking: Betty Crocker.

Betty Crocker is a household name that almost everyone in America is familiar with. But do you know who the real Betty Crocker actually is? While her name is attached to a very “real” image of a woman, she – like many other famous food icons – is not a real person, but instead a marketing tool used to sell food products and recipes, and to instill trust in her brand.

How did Betty Crocker come to be such a famous brand? Well, according to author Susan Marks’ book Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America’s First Lady of Food, it started with letters sent to the Gold Medal Flour Company. Homemakers would write cooking questions to the company and they in turn would send replies they gathered from their Home Service staff. While the advertising department, staffed by men, sent out the answers to these recipe-related questions, the department’s manager didn’t think women would take cooking advice in a letter signed by a man. Because they didn’t necessarily need a woman to fill a new job, they invented a fictional female character. They provided her with a name, asked current female staff to participate in a contest for the best signature, and Betty Crocker was “born.”*

So what year was Betty born? It might surprise you that she actually predates the 1950s, the decade that most people associate her with. She first appeared in a much earlier decade, the 1920s.

So you’re most likely familiar with products that carry the Betty Crocker image and red spoon logo, but how has “she” influenced American cooking over the years? Aside from answering consumers’ letters, she has been the star of her own radio show, shared recipes, and published numerous cookbooks during her long tenure.

Betty Crocker on the Radio

In the days prior to television – and with the advent of cable channels dedicated to food matters way in the future – Betty Crocker hit the air waves. She brought her cooking advice to the masses by presenting programs on the radio. The actress who portrayed Betty not only provided help to her listeners, she used the advice of older homemakers to pass along cooking tips to her audience.

According to this 1929 newspaper article, the “recipe exchange” was a feature of the Betty Crocker radio broadcast that included readers’ tips and recipes.

article about the Betty Crocker radio show, Riverside Daily Press newspaper article 13 February 1929

Riverside Daily Press (Riverside, California), 13 February 1929, page 10

She not only presented a cooking show, but she conducted a “cooking school” on air. Listeners could “graduate” via Betty Crocker’s radio show. Those who actively participated in all eight cooking lessons would receive a Gold Medal Radio Cooking School diploma at its conclusion. According to this 1926 newspaper article, the “cooking school had many thousands of members all over the United States, ranging in age from 14 to 90 years.” Women could enroll in the school for no fee. Their graduation was a matter of preparing and reporting on recipes. One of the graduates, an 80-year-old woman, had written to Betty Crocker “…and pleaded that she please be allowed to graduate as she had tried so hard and she had never been graduated from anything before in her life.” Like the other culinary students, her diploma was announced over the radio waves.

article about the Betty Crocker cooking school, Evening Star newspaper article 24 January 1926

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 24 January 1926, page 33

Betty Crocker Recipes

Newspapers are a source for all kinds of recipes: those written by newspaper staff, submitted by readers, and found in advertisements. Betty Crocker recipes are no exception and can be found throughout the decades in historical newspapers.

Women who listened to Betty Crocker’s radio show were able to add many new recipes to their repertoire. This one from 1928 is for Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies. To show how fool-proof the dessert recipe was, the text exclaims: “Of 278 women trying the recipe, not a single one failed her first attempt!”

Betty Crocker ad for Gold Medal Flour, Evening Star newspaper advertisement 15 November 1928

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 15 November 1928, page 31

Betty Crocker recipe for Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies, Evening Star newspaper article 15 November 1928

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 15 November 1928, page 31

During World War II various foods, including meat, were rationed. Betty Crocker recipes addressed those on the home front who needed to feed their families with reduced quantities or food substitutions. In this 1944 advertisement featuring a recipe for Yorkshire Pudding (or “Pig in a Poke”), the text of the advertisement for Gold Medal Flour states: “Betty Crocker offers this ‘meat-extender’ recipe to show you one way Gold Medal ‘Kitchen-tested’ Enriched Flour can add nourishment to your wartime meals.” An image on the lower left reminds consumers that food was integral to the war effort, stating “Food Fights for Freedom” and reminding them to “produce and conserve/share and play square.”

Betty Crocker recipe for "Pig in a Poke," Oregonian newspaper article 30 January 1944

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 30 January 1944, page 41

Betty Crocker recipes were meant to help sell various food-related products. A great marketing tool, they demonstrated how to take Betty Crocker cake mixes and turn the finished product into something special for your family to feast on. Consider this 1960 advertisement that utilizes Country Kitchen cake mixes and transforms them into desserts like Spumoni Cake, Hawaiian Velvet Cake, and Colonial Butter-Nut Cake.

Betty Crocker cake recipes, Oregonian newspaper article 11 September 1960

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 11 September 1960, page 130

Betty Crocker Cookbooks

Many family historians most likely either have a Betty Crocker cookbook or remember one in their family’s collection.

photo of a Betty Crocker cookbook

Photo: Betty Crocker cookbook, from the author’s collection. Credit: Gena Philibert-Ortega.

Today we can download the Betty Crocker Cookbook app, but our elders were able to peruse Betty’s recipes in her cookbooks, such as Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book which was first published in 1950.

ad for a Betty Crocker cookbook, Greensboro Daily News newspaper article 29 November 1950

Greensboro Daily News (Greensboro, North Carolina), 29 November 1950, page 3

One of the benefits of this cookbook is the fact that it is published as a 3-ring binder which allows its owner to add additional recipes. This 1950 review of the cookbook exclaims: “One of its chief values is that it is looseleaf, enabling the housewife to add clippings from other sources.” The review goes on to explain that the photos and illustrations are helpful aids in preparing the recipes.

review of a Betty Crocker cookbook, Greensboro Record newspaper article 13 September 1950

Greensboro Record (Greensboro, North Carolina), 13 September 1950, page 19

The Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book now referred to as the Betty Crocker Cookbook, is one of 250 cookbooks since 1950 that sport the Betty Crocker name.**

What are your memories of cooking with Betty Crocker? Do you own the Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book? Has your grandma passed down her Betty Crocker diploma? Share your memories in the comments below.


* Marks, Susan. Finding Betty Crocker: The secret Life of America’s First Lady of Food. Minneapolis, MC: University of Minnesota Press, 2005. Page 10-11.

** “The Story of Betty Crocker.” Accessed 16 June 2015.

Share Your Recipes with Us!

GenealogyBank has a shared group Pinterest board where you can share your old family recipes. If you have a family recipe you’d like to share, send us a Pinterest group board request and you can pin your recipe on our board to share with the community.

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What’s Your Favorite Pumpkin Pie Recipe? Share It with Us!

I love pumpkin pie.
Every autumn, newspapers carry recipes for making this old seasonal dessert favorite.

Bailly's Recipe for Pumpkin Pie, Grand Rapids Press newspaper article 15 November 1905

Grand Rapids Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 15 November 1905, page 4

It turns out that pumpkin pie is as American as apple pie – even more so!

Pumpkin Pie More American than Apple, Chicago Metro News newspaper article 8 September 1977

Chicago Metro News (Chicago, Illinois), 8 September 1977, page 12

According to this old news article:

The truth is that apple pie may well be the nation’s best-selling dessert pie, but its origin lies across the Atlantic; whereas, the pumpkin variety is truly an American innovation. So, it seems more appropriate to coin the phrase ‘as American as pumpkin pie,’ in honor of its domestic heritage.

What’s your favorite pumpkin pie recipe?

For me, Stop & Shop’s, Stew Leonard’s, Marie Callender’s…their pumpkin pies are all great – ready when you are. But you can’t beat a homemade pumpkin pie.

Why not try a new pumpkin pie recipe this season? Search through GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives and find an old pumpkin pie recipe to try.

Share Your Recipes with Us!

GenealogyBank has a shared Pinterest board where you can share your old family recipes. If you have a family recipe you’d like to share, send us a Pinterest group board request and you can pin your recipe on our board to share with the community.

Related Recipe Articles & Resources:

Tamales: One of My Family’s Favorite Hispanic Foods

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to find recipes for one of her family’s favorites: tamales.

Every now and then my family goes out and purchase tamales to have for dinner. It’s one of those Hispanic food traditions we look forward to. While some families like ours purchase the tamales, others have a generational tradition of getting together and making dozens of tamales for family and friends. Eating tamales is one example of a family food tradition that’s been passed down through the generations.

photo of tamales

Photo: tamales. Credit: the author.

What Are Tamales?

Never had tamales? Tamales can be traced way back to 7000 B.C., when Aztec women accompanied men into battle to cook for them. Today tamales, depending on where and who is making them, can vary ingredient-wise and what the tamale is wrapped in. In fact, tamales even differ regionally in the United States. Tamales are made from a corn-based meal that is stuffed with fruits, meats, cheese or chili peppers, and then wrapped in a corn husk, banana leaf, or parchment paper and steamed. Some people serve the tamales covered in a red or green sauce, while others may eat them without a sauce topping. Tamales may be spicy hot, made with no chili peppers, or even be sweet. People may think of tamales as a traditional food made at home but actually, in the United States, tamales have been sold since the late 1800s.

Tamale Recipes Anyone?

Maybe store bought tamales aren’t good enough, and you want to try cooking your own homemade. Preparing tamales can be a lot of work – but so worth it! Here’s one recipe from 1899 for chicken tamales.

tamales recipe, Daily Herald newspaper article 11 June 1899

Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), 11 June 1899, page 3

Another tamale recipe provided by famed New York food writer Craig Claiborne not only provides a recipe but includes the family history behind it. Mable Grimes talks about using her mother’s recipe during the Great Depression and making 150-200 a week to sell for 50 cents a dozen.

article about Mable Grimes and her Texas tamales, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 27 May 1971

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 27 May 1971, section E, page 15

Tamales for Sale

Like I mentioned before, making tamales is hard work; that’s why some people prefer to purchase them instead of cooking them from scratch at home. Buying them pre-made doesn’t seem to be a more recent idea; here’s an advertisement from Idaho in 1912.

tamales for sale ad, Idaho Statesman newspaper advertisement 21 December 1912

Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho), 21 December 1912, page 9

Probably my favorite advertisement for tamales is this 1893 one from Southern California that includes a poem:

Tamales, they say, are hotter today,
Hotter than they were last week.
To have them just right
You must try them each night,
Tamales each night you must eat.

tamales for sale ad featuring a poem about tamales, Riverside Independent Enterprise newspaper advertisement 24 September 1893

Riverside Independent Enterprise (Riverside, California), 24 September 1893, page 1

That tamale maker doesn’t just want to sell you tamales once in a while; he wants to sell them to you “every evening.”

What Else Is for Dinner?

What other foods are served with tamales? In our family we typically serve pozole, a hominy and pork-based soup, but you might also want to add marzipan, buñuelos (a fried dough ball), champurrado (a chocolate-based drink served warm), and turron (a honey-based candy) to the dinner table. A holiday food served around Christmas time is Rosca de Reyes (a sweet, round bread decorated with candies or crystallized fruit to celebrate Epiphany).

article about Rosca de Reyes including a recipe, Seattle Daily Times newspaper article 8 December 1971

Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, Washington), 8 December 1971, page 53

GenealogyBank’s Hispanic American Newspaper Archives include English- and Spanish-language newspapers from across the United States. You can find traditional Hispanic recipes printed in these newspapers for all types of foods.

For example, are you looking for a recipe for buñuelos? Browsing the San Antonio, Texas, newspaper Prensa we find these articles: “Buñuelos de Molde en Forma de Rosa” (12 February 1944); “Buñuelos de Manzanas” (9 November 1935); and “Buñuelos de Viento” (1 November 1925). In this column below, “Recetas de Cocina,” there is a recipe for Buñuelos de Queso Fresco (Fresh Cheese).

recipe for Buñuelos de Queso Fresco, Prensa newspaper article 28 December 1925

Prensa (San Antonio, Texas), 28 December 1925, page 5

Whether you serve tamales with pozole, and buñuelos for dessert, or something entirely different, here’s wishing you many happy family food traditions and memories.

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How to Create a Family Cookbook to Save Holiday Recipes

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article—just in time for all the Thanksgiving cooking—Gena discusses how to create a family cookbook to showcase all your favorite holiday recipes.

What is your favorite food served during the winter holidays? If you’re like me, you probably have many holiday foods you enjoy and you’ve added to that list over the years. Each December my sister-in-law and her sisters bake dozens and dozens of cookies, some native to the Azores where her family is from. It’s nice to have those baked gifts to look forward to each year. I also have treasured memories of Thanksgivings past when my great-grandmother would make pies and the dinner table would be laden with appetizers. Some of those appetizers we only ate at Thanksgiving. (I must admit I love appetizers almost more than the main meal.)

What are your family holiday food traditions? What recipes have been shared by your family for generations? What new traditions have you started? Do you have photos of holiday family gatherings? The holidays are the perfect time to start compiling and documenting those family recipes and good memories.

1) Define Family Cookbook Format

One great way to preserve that family history is with a family cookbook. You might be thinking that a cookbook is a huge endeavor requiring hundreds of recipes and time to format and compile the information. But a family cookbook can be organized in a variety of ways. At its simplest, each recipe can be printed on a sheet of paper and then all of the pages combined into a 3-ring notebook or provided as a digital file for each family member to print in the manner they see fit. This project can be as large or as small as you wish. Remember that it’s more important that you preserve those family memories than “publishing” the perfect family cookbook.

2) Gather Family Recipes

How should you gather recipes? Consider emailing family members and requesting their recipes you enjoy, and ask them to include an additional recipe or two that they frequently make. You could also wait until the next family dinner and bring a laptop, tablet, or recipe cards and have each person write out their recipes and memories.

Afraid you won’t have enough recipes to fill up a whole cookbook? What about using old holiday recipes from the newspaper? Choose a time period and a place, or even specific newspapers from the community your family has lived in. The Advanced Search feature for GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives lets you narrow your results by a date, or a date range, and a place. If you are interested in a certain type of recipe, say one for the holiday favorite pumpkin pie, you can also search by the name of the recipe or ingredients.

pumpkin pie recipe, Evening News newspaper article 20 December 1922

Evening News (San Jose, California), 20 December 1922, page 7

Don’t forget to search on your female ancestor’s name or family surnames just in case a family member contributed a recipe to a newspaper food column or won a recipe-related prize.

Tasty Almond Torta, Boston Record American newspaper article 12 July 1964

Boston Record American (Boston, Massachusetts), 12 July 1964, page 13

3) Add a Pinch of Genealogy, a Dash of Photos

Once you have your all your family recipes, enhance your cookbook project. Include genealogical information or photographs. In a family cookbook I own, the compiler made sure to annotate each recipe and include how the recipe provider was related to a common ancestor—a great idea for learning more about distant cousins. Photos of cooking heirlooms could also be added. Consider making a few of the recipes yourself and taking photos of the process. This can be especially meaningful when documenting recipes that the older generation in your family cooks or bakes.

Once you have all of the content for your cookbook, decide how you will finish it. Local office supply stores offer printing and binding services. You can also use an online cookbook publishing company that specializes in printing family and fundraising cookbooks. Printing can get expensive so make sure to look at all your options, and perhaps ask family members to contribute to the cost. Feel free to get creative by doing things like making a scrapbook or just gathering everything and distributing your document on a flash drive or CD. A family blog or website could also be used that would allow family members to access and download just the recipes they are interested in.

Share Your Food Memories

What’s on your family table this holiday season? What are some of the recipes you are looking forward to? Take some time now to record and share those fond food memories so that they are not lost with each generation.

Share some of your holiday food memories with us. Join us on Pinterest and pin your recipe to our board, Old Fashioned Family Recipes. Simply request an invite to post to our shared group board. Not on Pinterest? No problem, share your recipes in the comments below.

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Old Fashioned Thanksgiving Recipes in the Newspaper

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to find some of our ancestors’ Thanksgiving dishes, and shares those old fashioned recipes.

I’ve purchased some new pots and pans and started shopping for the food for our Thanksgiving meal. Are you ready? The bigger question is: what recipes will you be serving at your Thanksgiving feast? While your dinner recipes may be old hat by now, home cooks have always looked for recipe ideas even for this most traditional meal. Luckily for previous generations, the newspaper helped with the planning by providing plenty of Thanksgiving recipes—and by searching GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, I’ve retrieved some of these old fashioned Thanksgiving recipes to share with you.

Lettuce Soup and Cranberry Water Ice?

This 1922 newspaper article from Olympia, Washington, remarks: “Below will be found a menu for the Thanksgiving Day dinner, which is published as an aid in arranging the greatest typical American feast of the year.” While some of the recipes are familiar, the recipe for Lettuce Soup might be a new one to you.

Thanksgiving Recipes, Morning Olympian newspaper article 19 November 1922

Morning Olympian (Olympia, Washington), 19 November 1922, page 7

Let’s face it, for many of us the Thanksgiving meal is pretty standard fare year after year. According to this 1912 article from Trenton, New Jersey, “The usual dishes present no difficulties to the good cook.” So the article, true to its title, provides “new” recipes to try on that annual feast day. Do you like cranberries? Tired of the same old cranberry sauce? This article offers a Cranberry Water Ice recipe that involves pouring a teacupful of hot, but not boiling, water over a quart of plump cranberries. Then cook the mixture until soft and reduced. Once cool, add the juice of a “good sized lemon, a sirup (sic) made of a quart of boiling water and two capfuls of granulated sugar cooked until it thickens. Stir well and freeze to the consistency of water ice.” Other recipes are included in this article that features a rather interesting photo of a child holding a dead upside-down turkey.

Thanksgiving Recipes That Every Woman Doesn't Know, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 17 November 1912

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 17 November 1912, page 21

Dressing or Stuffing?

You say dressing, I say stuffing… So do you serve dressing or stuffing with your turkey? Most likely your use of the terms “dressing” or “stuffing” depends on where you live. Typically if you live in the South, you refer to that particular popular Thanksgiving side dish as “dressing.” No matter if you say dressing or stuffing, it most likely includes a variety of ingredients such as meats (like sausage or oysters), nuts, breads (cornbread or stale sourdough), and assorted vegetables (celery, onions and even mashed potatoes), spices, and liquid. For some, no Thanksgiving turkey is complete without it being “stuffed,” a practice that is losing popularity with today’s food-safety conscious cooks.

I must admit, much to most readers’ chagrin, my stuffing typically comes out of a box. This cooking convenience started with a U.S. patent (US 3870803) filed in 1971 by Ruth Siems and others from General Foods, when she invented a convenient way to prepare a quick stuffing based on the size of the bread crumbs. However, for those who opt for the homemade variety, the stuffing recipe is typically a source of pride. Want to try something different this year? In this Oyster Dressing recipe the directions are fairly simple. If you don’t like oysters, try the accompanying Chestnut Dressing.

Thanksgiving Recipes, Northern Christian Advocate newspaper article 14 November 1907

Northern Christian Advocate (Syracuse, New York), 14 November 1907, page 14

Thanksgiving Memories

One of my favorite Thanksgiving articles has to be this one from a 1935 edition of the Times-Picayune, a New Orleans newspaper, in which people submit a recipe and an accompanying Thanksgiving memory. A recipe for Baked Rabbit submitted by Mrs. O. Le R. Gofrrth includes a Civil War memory of having to improvise when there was no turkey to be had. “Ever since a cold and dreary Thanksgiving Day during the War Between the States, when the turkeys had been given to the Southern forces, and there were no wild ones to be had in Tidewater, Va. …No turkeys or other fowls, but there were rabbits in the woods.”

In the same article, Mrs. E. M. Williams shares an old recipe for Popcorn Custard and Squash Pie that she introduces by writing: “This is a delicious dessert for Thanksgiving, because it dates back to the ancient days when one branch of our family lived in Maine. The recipe came from there and has been handed down for several generations, so that it is a real traditional recipe.”

Traditional Thanksgiving Recipes Given by Winners, Times-Picayune newspaper article 23 November 1935

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 23 November 1935, page 22

Another reason why I love this historical newspaper article is the grocery store advertisement found on the same page. Picone’s Complete Food Store sells turkeys for 28 cents a pound, 2 dozen oysters for 15 cents and “freshly killed” rabbits for “20 cents up.” These food prices give us a sense of what Thanksgiving dinner cost a family in 1935. To convert historic prices to today’s values, see the website Measuring Worth.

ad for Picone’s Complete Food Store, Times-Picayune newspaper advertisement 23 November 1935

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 23 November 1935, page 22

Another article found in the same newspaper 11 years later demonstrates that, depending on where you live and the time period, the idea of a “traditional” Thanksgiving differs. Consider this Thanksgiving menu shared by Mrs. W. A. Dees from when she was at a “camp” at La Branch near Lake Pontchartrain that includes uniquely Louisiana cuisine.

Thanksgiving in Camp with Louisiana Game, Times-Picayune newspaper article 23 November 1946

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 23 November 1946, page 17

Thanksgiving is about celebrating with family and friends, and whether that is with a turkey or fried frog legs and squirrel pie, the food served helps everyone enjoy the day and the company.

What Are Your Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes?

Share your Thanksgiving recipes with us. Whether they are old traditional recipes or new ones you’ve incorporated into your annual dinner, we’d love to hear about them. Join us on Pinterest and pin your recipe to our board, Old Fashioned Family Recipes. Simply request an invite to post to our group recipe board. Not on Pinterest? No problem; share your recipes in the comments below.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

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Holiday Genealogy Gift Ideas Pt. 2: Old Fashioned Recipe Book

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog post, Mary presents the second in a series of genealogy holiday gift ideas: a project to create a recipe book of vintage dishes your ancestors might have prepared.

If you’re looking for a fun gift idea for the holidays, put together an anthology of your ancestors’ holiday recipes. You can find thousands of recipes in old newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives. Assemble them as gifts or surprise the family by cooking a meal with vintage recipes.

Here are some ideas:

  • Make an old fashioned cookbook
  • Create recipe cards
  • Assemble dry ingredients for soups into clear jars & attach the recipe card with glue or string to the exterior
  • Bake sweets & treats the way Grandma did
  • Put on your apron & cook the meal the old fashioned way (or do it faster with modern conveniences)

To demonstrate how simple it is to find old fashioned recipes in historical newspapers, I’ve assembled a selection from the GenealogyBank archives to get you started—such as this one for strawberry ice cream. Doesn’t this sound delicious!

1897 Strawberry Ice Cream


  • 1 pint of milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 pint double cream
  • 1 quart perfectly ripe strawberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • liquid carmine for coloring (vegetable dye or extracts)
strawberry ice cream recipe, New York Tribune newspaper article 24 June 1897

New York Tribune (New York, New York), 24 June 1897, page 5

1918 Health Bread

In 19th century America, homemakers made their own bread. Here is an old health bread recipe invented by a woman from Aberdeen, South Dakota.


  • 3 pints potato water
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes
  • 1 cake yeast foam
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 sifter dark rye flour
  • 2 cups white flour
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 1 tablespoon beef fat or Crisco
health bread recipe, Aberdeen Daily News newspaper article 21 January 1918

Aberdeen Daily News (Aberdeen, South Dakota), 21 January 1918, page 3

1898 German Christmas Cookies


  • 7 ½ ounces butter plus a small amount to grease a pan
  • 10 ounces powdered sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 14 ounces sifted flour
  • icing
German Christmas cookies recipe, Daily Illinois State Journal newspaper article 21 December 1898

Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), 21 December 1898, page 7

1850 Corn Bread


  • 2 ½ pints sifted meal
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 1 teacup sugar
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon saleratus (baking powder)
corn bread recipe, Jackson Citizen newspaper article 15 May 1850

Jackson Citizen (Jackson, Michigan), 15 May 1850, page 1

The following 1878 recipes for lemon and sweet potato pies came from the same publication. The recipe article also included tantalizing cream cake, snow ball cake and early frosting recipes.

1878 Lemon Pie (1st variation)


  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 egg
  • butter the size of a walnut
  • 1 crust

1878 Lemon Pie (2nd variation)


  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • piece of butter the size of a small egg
  • 1 egg
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 crust
lemon pie recipe, Daily Inter Ocean newspaper article 27 July 1878

Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois), 27 July 1878, page 11

1878 Sweet Potato Pie


  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup finely-mashed sweet potatoes
  • sugar to taste
  • 1 crust (no top)
sweet potato pie recipe, Daily Inter Ocean newspaper article 27 July 1878

Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois), 27 July 1878, page 11

1855 Rabbit, Hare or Venison Soup

Soup is best simmered over a hot stove. Start the soup six hours prior to serving.


  • 3 large, young and tender rabbits or 4 small ones
  • 6 mild onions
  • half a grated nutmeg
  • fresh butter or cold roast veal gravy
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole pepper (pepper corn)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet marjoram leaves
  • 4 or 5 blades mace
  • 3 large sliced carrots
  • 4 quarts boiling water
  • 6 grated hard boiled egg yolks
  • diced bread or buttered toast

Additional ingredients required for hare or venison soup:

  • 2 glasses Sherry or Madeira wine
  • 1 sliced lemon
rabbit soup recipe, California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences newspaper article 28 June 1855

California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences (Sacramento, California), 28 June 1855, page 205

1874 Beef, Chicken, Oyster or Veal Soup

This recipe was “extracted from the manuscript recipe book of an old and famous Virginia housekeeper,” who, unfortunately, was not named in the newspaper article.


  • meat of one’s choosing, such as a large shank bone of beef
  • a lump of butter
  • a selection of herbs & vegetables of one’s choosing
  • water
  • salt & other condiments
  • flour
soup recipe, Alexandria Gazette newspaper article 24 March 1874

Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia), 24 March 1874, page 2

1878 Vinegar

If you’ve ever wondered how to make vinegar, try this recipe.


  • potatoes
  • 1 pound sugar
  • 2 ½ gallons water
  • hop yeast or whiskey
vinegar recipe, Daily Inter Ocean newspaper article 27 July 1878

Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois), 27 July 1878, page 11

Now, before we end on a “sour” note from the vinegar recipe, you really must know that America’s favorite Snickerdoodles are not a modern-day invention.

1932 Snickerdoodle

Where do snickerdoodles come from?

A “Culinary Jingles” column from the Lexington Herald of 27 May 1932 reminds us that snickerdoodle is an adaptation of a foreign recipe, much like a quick coffee cake. The author of this newspaper article reported the origin was Dutch, but my Dutch contacts at Facebook tell me this is wrong. It is not a Dutch recipe, but more likely of German or Pennsylvania Dutch origin.

Oh darn! Guess you can’t always believe what you read. I was imagining the ancestors sitting by an Amsterdam canal exchanging holiday greetings while munching on their favorite snickerdoodles! (Note to self: change that mental image to Germans along the Rhine!)


  • 1 ½ tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 ½ cups self-rising flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons cinnamon mixed with 1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
snickerdoodle recipe, Lexington Herald newspaper article 27 May 1932

Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky), 27 May 1932, page 12

Happy Holidays to one and all, eat well and good luck with your holiday gift projects!

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Old Halloween Recipes from Our Ancestors’ Kitchens

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog post, Gena searches old newspapers to find recipes used by our ancestors to celebrate Halloween.

Getting ready to entertain some ghosts and goblins? How about trying an old Halloween recipe for your party? I know it can be difficult to come up with Halloween-themed foods (after all, you can only eat so much candy). In my many years of celebrating Halloween I can only think of two recipes that I’ve enjoyed that were specific to the occasion. One involves a punch that includes lemon-lime soda, sherbet, and dry ice (great for that spooky fog affect). The other is a brownie that is cooked in the shape of a pumpkin, with the aid of a pizza pan, and then decorated to look like a jack-o’-lantern with orange frosting and candies.

But what types of Halloween recipes did previous generations enjoy? Looking through old newspapers gives us a sense of what yesteryear’s Halloween hostess may have served at Halloween parties.

Witch Cake, Goblin Pie & Gnome Salad

For example, in 1912 Halloween meant Witch Cake, Goblin Pie and Gnome Salad all washed down with some Caldron Punch. If sugar truly makes children hyper than this punch with its one pound of sugar and ginger ale might just do the trick!

Halloween Recipes, Idaho Statesman newspaper article 20 October 1912

Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho), 20 October 1912, section 2, page 11

Hot Drinks, Doughnuts & Pumpkin Pie

Helen Robertson’s 1930 article “Games to Play and Things to Eat on Eery Halloween” in the “Women’s Magazine and Amusements” section of the Plain Dealer asserts that for Halloween:

Not that we would ever want to serve real party dishes—they have no place in the Halloween’s feasting, for custom has long banished them in favor of pumpkin pie, cider, doughnuts and coffee.

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In multiple Halloween food columns I read, there was confirmation that it’s a night for hot drinks, doughnuts and pumpkin pie. Surprisingly, while Robertson does suggest adding some decorations to pumpkin pie, there are no recipes for the traditional feast. Instead she has everything from Witch’s Salad to Halloween Sandwiches (made with gingerbread, butter, and American cheese and then decorated to look like faces) to Sardine Rarebit that is made from sardines on toast.

Halloween recipes, Plain Dealer newspaper article 26 October 1930

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 26 October 1930, page 52

But in case you would like some pumpkin pie and doughnuts (and quite frankly I don’t know why you wouldn’t), the following recipes from 1919 include a pumpkin pie without eggs. I was surprised that this recipe called for canned pumpkin. I had assumed that that was a more modern shortcut used by today’s busy pie makers.

Halloween recipes, Patriot newspaper article 17 October 1919

Patriot (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), 17 October 1919, page 17

Pimento Cheese Halloween Sandwiches

I love how newspaper recipes give us a glimpse of how life has changed. In this food column from 1931, Halloween sandwich recipes include one for Harlequin Sandwiches—which is basically buttered bread using alternating white and wheat slices—and a Pumpkin Salad which isn’t really made from pumpkin but instead is largely made out of pimento cheese shaped and decorated like a pumpkin.

Halloween recipes, Boston Herald newspaper article 28 October 1931

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 28 October 1931, page 13

Sliced Bread!

Interestingly enough, the Harlequin Sandwiches call for slicing the bread in ½-inch slices. But at the bottom of the page a large advertisement for bread announces “Good News for the Bread Lovers of New England. SLICED!” Considering the time it would take to slice an entire loaf of bread to the correct thickness, sliced bread seems like the way to go. The old news advertisement also announces that you can still purchase unsliced bread if you prefer.

ad for sliced bread, Boston Herald newspaper advertisement 28 October 1931

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 28 October 1931, page 13

Must-Haves for Halloween Parties

It would appear that two things the newspaper Halloween recipe articles agreed on was that the color scheme should be orange and black, and that super sugary sweets to drink and eat are the rule of the day. But when they start suggesting other foods for the party, it becomes more interesting. Adding a Halloween word to a recipe like “pumpkin” “ghost” or “deviled,” as in the case of this Deviled Tuna Salad, is all one needs to transform humdrum into a Halloween feast.

Halloween Recipes May Be Helpful, Oregonian newspaper article 26 October 1935

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 26 October 1935, page 4

On the same page as the Deviled Tuna Salad recipe is a photograph of a child and a cake with a caption that reads:

Halloween is a children’s holiday and the refreshments served should not only be appropriate color but they should be flavors and foods which the young people will like.

I couldn’t agree more.

photo of a girl and a Halloween cake, Oregonian newspaper article 26 October 1935

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 26 October 1935, page 4

What’s on your table this Halloween? Is it all treats or are there some types of healthful foods as well?

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State Fair Food Fare: Strange Eats & Award-Winning Recipes

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog post, Gena talks about how important food has been in the history of state fairs—both the food and recipe competitions, as well as some unusual treats offered for your consumption at the fair.

Do your plans this summer include a trip to your state’s fair? State fairs have been around since 1841 and are a showcase for all types of goods, though their origins focused on agriculture.* State agriculture boards utilized early state fairs as a means to assist farmers in learning how to improve their crops and livestock, as well as highlighting products used in farming.

Competitions provided cash prizes as well as bragging rights for participating farmers and their families.** Today, state fairs offer all kinds of competitions and prizes for the best in everything from agriculture and livestock to arts and crafts. The state fair represents the “best of the best,” with those who have won ribbons and awards at a county fair competing at the state level.

And of course, there are the food booths at state fairs, making these events veritable smorgasbords—which offer some surprising cuisine. Chocolate-covered bacon, anyone?

photo of a booth offering chocolate-covered bacon at the California State Fair

Photo: booth offering chocolate-covered bacon at the California State Fair. Credit: Kim von Aspern-Parker.

1849 New York State Fair at Syracuse

State Fair at Syracuse, Trenton State Gazette newspaper article 12 September 1849

Trenton State Gazette (Trenton, New Jersey), 12 September 1849, page 2

As anyone who’s been to a state fair can attest, food is integral to the experience. Often the food we eat at the fair is out of the ordinary and reserved for just such an outing (think deep fried Twinkies, chocolate-covered bacon and funnel cakes). The fair food often borders between what you want to eat and what you want to eat just this once.

photo of a booth offering deep fried Twinkies, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Snickers at the California State Fair

Photo: booth offering deep fried Twinkies, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Snickers at the California State Fair. Credit: Kim von Aspern-Parker.

1918 Idaho State Fair Cancelled Due to War

The food served at the fair has changed over time to reflect the region and current tastes as well as world events. Consider this newspaper article referring to a barbeque for the Idaho State Fair in 1918, during World War I. The event, referred to as the “eatfest,” was cancelled in an effort to conserve food because the previous barbecue attendees had consumed “five beeves,” “600 huge Pullman loaves of bread” and “200 pounds of sugar.” Readers are assured that the eatfest would return:

when the war is over and the United States forces march into Berlin they will put on a barbecue that will make the world sit up and take notice…

State Fair Barbecue Cancelled for Wartime, Idaho Statesman newspaper article 20 September 1918

Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho), 20 September 1918, page 5

photo of a booth offering corn dogs and cotton candy at the California State Fair

Photo: booth offering corn dogs and cotton candy at the California State Fair. Credit: Kim von Aspern-Parker.

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1860 Utah State Fair Awards

Throughout the history of state fairs, all kinds of awards have been given for food. While some awards are aimed toward crops and livestock, others are for prepared food items. In this 1860 award listing from the Deseret Agriculture and Manufacturing Society (the original name for the Utah State Fair), Utah Governor and Mormon President Brigham Young won in several categories including the Vegetables category for best 6 stalks of celery, best 4 heads of cauliflower, and best “peck of silver onions.” Interestingly enough, there is a Women’s Work category that does not include food.

listing of awards presented at the 1860 Utah State Fair, Deseret News newspaper article 17 October 1860

Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), 17 October 1860, page 263

photo of various food booths at the California State Fair

Photo: various food booths at the California State Fair. Credit: Kim von Aspern-Parker.

1933 Texas State Fair Recipe Contest

State fairs evolved to provide women with the chance to submit their favorite recipes for prizes. In this photo montage from the 1933 Texas State Fair, some of the winners in the food categories are listed as well as their street addresses.

Prize Winners in State Fair Food Exhibit, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 13 October 1933

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 13 October 1933, section I, page 5

photo of first-place jams at the California State Fair

Photo: first-place jams at the California State Fair. Credit: Kim von Aspern-Parker.

Blue Ribbon Recipes from 1937 Illinois State Fair

The obvious question asked when someone wins a blue ribbon for their recipe is: what is their secret? In some cases, you can find state fair winning recipes printed in the newspaper. In this example from the “Homemakers Institute” column, encouraging women to get their children involved in cooking, two blue ribbon recipes from the Illinois State Fair are featured: Baking Powder Biscuits and Sugar Cookies.

article about recipe winners at the Illinois State Fair, Daily Illinois State Journal newspaper article 22 August 1937

Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), 22 August 1937, page 8

photo of the gold cheese award at the California State Fair

Photo: gold cheese award at the California State Fair. Credit: Kim von Aspern-Parker.

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Fruit Cake Prize Winner

In this article about Mrs. Florence Dickinson, a multiple blue ribbon-winning cook, she provides her fruit cake recipe and remarks that “as long as people like to eat, women will like to cook.” She goes on to point out that the modern woman, a la 1935, has more time on her hands because of modern appliances and that allows them to not concentrate their entire day on cooking.

Mrs. Florence Dickinson Gives Recipe for Specialty (Fruit Cake), Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper article 5 November 1935

Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 5 November 1935, page 7

Did anyone in your family win a prize for a recipe they submitted to the fair? Did they pass down their prize-winning recipe? If so, please share your family recipes with us as we’d all love to try a taste.

Provide us a newspaper clipping or recipe card and we’ll add it to our Old Fashioned Family Recipes Pinterest board.  You can email the blog editor with your clippings and cards at:

Follow Genealogy Bank’s board Old Fashioned Family Recipes on Pinterest.


* Time Magazine. “A Brief History of State Fairs”:,29307,1916488_1921788,00.html. Accessed 26 July 2014.
** Shrader, Valerie V.A. “Blue Ribbon Afghans from America’s State Fairs: 40 Prize-Winning Crocheted Designs.” New York: Lark Books, 2003, p. 7.

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