Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking


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Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking

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Aug 21, 2008, 8:59pm

There are 39 owners of this book on LT. I'd love to know how you came to own this vintage cookbook set, and what do you like most about it?

My story is: my father, a Korean immigrant, was a houseboy for many years in NY during the 1930s. When he began his own family and returned to the U.S., a former employer gave him this set. And where else can you learn about how to make tomato aspic and ham loaf?

Aug 22, 2008, 8:37am

Hey sungene -

A co-worker and friend of mine had taught some cooking classes and had quite a few cookbooks. When she and her husband divorced, HE got the Meta Givens and she was distraught. This was pre-internet days, and I called and drove all over Los Angeles and finally found both volumes for her, coverless, from different printings. It was the best I could do in 1990. I think I paid about $30 for one and $50 for the other. She was ecstatic to get them.

I moved to North Carolina in 1991. One day in 1992 I was in a ratty old second hand book store in Chapel Hill and there they were! Both volumes, dust jackets not perfect but pretty good, and I paid $10 for the set.

I use several of the recipes. My two favorites are her medium white sauce which I use now for EVERY recipe calling for white sauce, and her pumpkin pie recipe. The spices are different than what's on the Libby's can and we prefer it.

Aug 22, 2008, 1:52pm

I've never heard of this set until you brought it up, sungene, but now I'm intrigued!

Re: Ham loaf... I use a recipe from a recent edition of Joy of Cooking. Once I made it, there was no way I could go back to making regular meat loaf-- it's just so much better. It will probably continue to be out of fashion until one of the Food Network bobbleheads pretends to invent it on one of their episodes.

Edited: Aug 22, 2008, 6:35pm

Karenmarie: Great story! Thanks for saying.
Ortolan: Hopefully we'll make this a rare and coveted cookbook set--ask your foodie friends if they've heard of it.

Aug 22, 2008, 9:10pm

I received this book when my grandmother passed on and I inherited her extensive cook book set. (30+ volumes of which I've only catologued a few here)

This is one of the few books that I use from that collection and I love it, although, I couldn't say which recipes are my favorites right now. I'm out of town, so I can't check my tags.

I have limited space in my tiny apartment and all of my cook books are shoved into a deep cupboard stacked three deep. The one's I use the most are towards the front, and this one is one of the first. I felt quite silly because it sat in a box for over a year before I actually got around to looking at those books (it was too soon after Gram's passing) and I was excited to discover this was in there and what a gem it was. Of course, now I love using it because I feel a little closer to her and I wonder which recipes she may have used or under what circumstances stuff was splatted across a page. :D

However, I think I have only one volume of this set? But it's really big, so maybe it's a combined volume? How can I tell which volume I have? Like I said, I'm not home right now (I'm visiting my parents with the kids and will be here for a few more days) so I can't check.

Aug 22, 2008, 10:13pm

Hey, I do have the other book! Or, at least I do now. I feel a bit silly about it since I never realized or noticed that what I had was part of a set.

I mentioned this to my mother and she told me that she hadn't actually given me all of Gram's books; that there were two more boxes out in the garage. As I was going through them, I found the other volume. Yay.

I've also set aside 20 more cook books to haul home with me (only about 1/3 of what was out there). My husband isn't going to be very happy. :D

I'm looking forward to getting these catologued.

Aug 23, 2008, 2:14am

I think I got this set at a yard sale or library sale -- I know I didn't pay more than a couple of dollars for it, but I like older cookbooks and I recognized the name Meta Givens so I picked it up. I look at the recipes from time to time, but I haven't really used it much. Maybe I'll have to give it another look!

Aug 23, 2008, 7:57am

I only have Vol. 1, several years ago at an estate auction my wife and I picked up 7 boxes of cookbooks. I think we only paid $6 for each box. Since then she has earned her Masters Degree and I have gone back to get my BA. We have not had much free time for what we used to call experemental food night so we have not tried any of the recepies. I skimmed through it last night and the first half looks like nutrition primer.

Aug 23, 2008, 2:26pm

Would someone like to tell the rest of us who don't know about Meta Givens? I've never heard of her, so I'm wondering what makes these books treasured? Why do you like them so?

Aug 23, 2008, 5:41pm

Gosh, I don't know much about Meta Given herself except that she's the author of these cookbooks, and another one I think on cakes. Google doesn't yield much more about her. I suppose she might a response to the early Irma Rombauer JOY OF COOKING. But what a great name, especially in this day of meta-fiction, and other meta-madnesses. The menu plans and nutritional info, as well as the vintage treatment of foodstuffs and preserving are fascinating to me. Food is meta-culture, no?

Aug 24, 2008, 9:03am

Speaking of Joy of Cooking, I have 3 of the editions - a facsimile of the original edition that my husband got me for Christmas one year, a 1951 edition of my MiL's, and my own very ratty and heavily used 1970s version with the white cover.

Aug 24, 2008, 10:08pm

This from dorothyvance:

I got my copy of Modern Encycl. of Cooking when my Mom passed away in 1994. Hers is a 1952, 10th printing. I remember this cookbook as always being their when I was a child. My Mom was always using it and I was so happy to get 'custody' of it! I've left her slips of paper in it with the handwritten notes about changes she made or such. It's a family treasure for me.

Sep 11, 2008, 2:44am

Okay, color me embarassed. I don't remember how I came by these. I think probably when some friend was moving, they sent them my way because I have a bunch of old cookbooks. I know they came to me right before my back went out, and I haven't been cooking very much the past few years. I haven't even cracked the spine yet.

But! Reading these comments has me really curious now. I'll be seeing what they're about in the next few days. So thanks for a good topic and the inspiration!

Aug 20, 2009, 2:25pm

Purchased my first set (Meta Givens Encyclopedia of Cooking) in approximately 1956 right after we got married. I had joined a book club and these were among my first so many free books. I can remember I chose these as I didn't have any recipe books and thought I might need them. They actually became my "bible" of cooking. Learned how to make everything from Eclairs to stews to cooking a turkey from it.

Then, in approximately 1976, my daughter's friend saw I had a set of these and said her mother had a set exactly like them and she didn't use them at all - she was going to ask her mother if she could give them to me. My set by this time was falling apart and volume II had lost it's spine cover and front board. I have been a little more gentle with this set - they are still in halfway good condition. I didn't realize until recently that they are somewhat collectible! Who knew?

Sep 17, 2009, 10:47pm

Just found this whole LibraryThing, and can't stop reading it!

I got my Meta Givens at a yard sale. I didn't even realize there was more than one volume until I picked it up again recently. What in the world could be in the 2nd volume??? The first seems so complete. Anyway, I baked something, can't remember what right now because it's late and I'm dazed, but the reviews of the finished product were great! The book stands the test of time!

Oct 18, 2009, 5:24pm

Like momsib, I just found this LibraryThing. I was actually searching for info about Meta Given. Found this from another retro cookbook site: Ms. Given grew up on a "Missouri hill farm," learning to cook with the limited foodstuffs available to her. She then studied home economics and became involved in developing and testing recipes, and in writing about nutrition, shopping and kitchen equipment.

Read more:

My Mom passed away August 20th, and I was searching through her old copy of the cookbook to give recipes out at her celebration of life. Her copy was loveworn - it didn't have a cover or any identifying pages so I had no idea of the title. I went to and they searched based on a page I scanned, and found it! Bless Peter and!

I still make her coleslaw (#1) from the book, as well as the baking powder biscuits, the fudge, the spice cake, and countless others. If you can find salt-dried cod, the creamed codfish is to die for!

Oct 21, 2009, 9:29pm

Aw!! what a great story! I shall have to try those recipes now. It's hard to find a good coleslaw recipe.

I've been scanning book sales and garage sales to find the second volume. Some day... If i weren't so infernally cheap, i'd do the ebay thing. I keep thinking one will come my way more easily, though, like the first volume did. I think i paid maybe a couple of bucks at most at a garage sale.

Dec 3, 2009, 10:40pm

Hey, thanks for posting. If I ever sell my set, I'll be sure to give you a holler! Keep checking those yard sales.

Edited: Dec 18, 2009, 2:31pm

I have my mother-in-law's old copy of Meta Givens's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking Complete. She gave them to my husband when he moved away from home. Both volumes were starting to fall apart and I was afraid to lose pages out of them, so we've had them rebound and they work like new now.

We love that the recipes are from a time when people weren't afraid of their food.

Jun 9, 2010, 4:40pm

I just found both volumes at one of my grandmothers friends estate sale. This woman's house had more cooking, gardening and sewing books than I have EVER seen. I found these when I had given up my search after filling two boxes already. I was soo excited! They are in amazing condition, but have a fair amount of writing from the previous owner. The dust cover of each has "NEVER separate Vol. 1 from Vol. 2" on it. I found it cute. Inside the dust cover of Vol. 2 says:

"At the age of 10 in her Ozark farm home, Meta Given began to use her ingenuity with the simple foods at hand, dressing them up, making unusual combination's, serving them in new ways."

It goes on to say that she studied at the University of Missouri (awesome to me because I just graduated from there!), Wisconsin and Chicago where she became more focused on nutrition. She's recognized as one of the America's most noted food and cooking authorities, selected to head the research and experimental work of a large commercial food org., established her own experimental kitchen, became food editor of one of the largest daily news papers, her column was followed by over 1,000,000 women. From this following came the book we have all came to know and love.

I am very surprised and disappointed that there is not more info. about her online.

Jun 9, 2010, 4:41pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Apr 19, 2011, 10:56pm

Wow it has been a long time since anyone wrote. I am a serious vintage cookbook collector. I love the way they were written and in alot of cases she did write like the reader didn't know how to boil water. I just don't look at them, I too cook from them. Got started when I thought, Wow if I can't get my mom's until she dies, I'll never have any fun. My first find was 1955 Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking Vol. II Meta Givens. $8.00 in an antique store. Now vol. 1 was sitting there but nope I didn't get it cuz at that time I didn't know what I was doing. Now I have a copy of everything she wrote and an extra set for my daughter for christmas. What is it we like so much?
Real language, real works of basic art and real food. Real amounts for the hard working american. Not a quarter size meal with seasoning all over the plate. During war times you had to have smart meals as well.
Some of my other favorite finds so far:
1900 The White House Cookbook
1925 The Rumford Complete Cook Book
1939 The United States Regional cookbook
1943 The complete Vitamin Cookbook
1950 The Encyclopedia of Cooking in 24 Vol in the binder
You just have to remember that our ovens are more effecient than what they had back in the day so you will have to adjust you times and temps.
So if you want folks at Thanksgiving to say, "wow that tastes just like Grandmom's" use a vintage cookbook and Meta Given is a Great start.

Apr 20, 2011, 5:52am

pdean - I have 3 copies of The Rumford Complete Cook Book - I inherited them all from my husband's family. I have his great-grandmother's (with a handwritten inscription dating it to 1915), his grandmother's (1924 edition), and his great-aunt's (1934 edition). I can't bear to part with a single one since each wrote things in them. They have the best pie crust recipe I have ever found, one that never fails. It's called Flaky Paste.

Oct 20, 2011, 2:38am

When my mom passed away, I suggested my sister in law take her copy of the book, because it contained so many "family" recipes. She didn't want it, and I'm so glad. For years I cooked the latest from food network or magazines, and now, as I age, I'm reverting back to a lot of the good old memories of childhood.

Oct 27, 2011, 6:25am

frugalhausfrau, are you talking about Meta's book? If so, I'd love it if you'd tell us some of the recipes you're cooking from it that bring back memories of childhood.

I'd love to have my mom's old cookbook. The only one I recall ever seeing is that plaid, three-ring-bound Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book, not that I recall her ever using a recipe. Now I have one similar to it that I found at a yard sale, and I still love thumbing through it, looking at the pictures as I did when I was a kid.

Jan 5, 2012, 6:05pm

I bought Meta Given's Encylopedia of Cooking in the early '50. I got it through a mail order book club. That book taught a new bride how to boil water without burning it!

My copy doesn't have any cover and some of the front and back pages are missing.

I moved recently and am on the hunt to find this book. It's packed away some place! Along with my life time collection of knitting needles. LOL

I'm looking for the pumpkin pie receipe. I've found several on the internet. But they're modified. Her receipe called for 2 Tbs. of orange juice. The addition of orange juice made it taste just right.

Jan 5, 2012, 7:40pm

Honey Pumpkin Pie -- I think this might be the one? There are several others, but not with orange juice. This is from the 1959 edition.

Pastry for 9-inch single crust pie

2 eggs
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
3/4 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup mild flavored honey
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 tsp grated orange rind
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp mace or nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1 Tbsp boiling water

preheat oven to 425

Line 9 inch pie tin with pastry, crimp edges, do not prick pastry. ( I left out some pastry-related instructions here since I figured you could do this part.)
Beat eggs until well mixed, stir in next six ingredients until well blended. Measure spices into a cup, add boiling water and stir to a smooth paste, then stir thoroughly into pumpkin mixture. Turn mixture into pastry-lined pan. Bake 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 300, opening oven a minute so heat drops rapidly to 300. Bake about 25 minutes longer or until custard tests done. Cool to lukewarm before cutting.

Jan 13, 2012, 5:26pm

All your talk re: Meta Givens has put me on the trail to find at least one. Thanks for the interesting info.

Oct 22, 2012, 2:03am

My Meta Givens set came to me separately- one in a big box of cookbooks that I snagged at an auction for $2.50, the other from a thrift shop for .50 cents.

They're both pretty well loved, one having the cover almost off, but I'm not interested in condition,really. If I can find a way to replace them with better condition for an affordable price then I would. But I think the splatters and penciled notes add a charm.