Vintage cookbooks bring back memories of favorite meals

December 6, 2017 GMT

SOUTH SIOUX CITY | When he retires, South Sioux City Library Director Dave Mixdorf wants to build himself a man cave.

But instead of creating a space designed to house sports memorabilia or a pool table, Mixdorf merely need to assemble some bookshelves that he’ll use to maintain his collection of more than 60 vintage cookbooks.

Cookbooks in a man cave, huh?

“I’ll always need to list the books using the Dewey Decimal System,” Mixdorf said. “Once a librarian, always a librarian, I guess.”

Indeed, Mixdorf said he’s been obsessed with cooking ever since he worked at Camp Courageous, a Monticello, Iowa, camp for youths and adults with disabilities, more than 40 years ago.

“I was known for my ability of cooking out on a campfire,” he said. “Campfire chicken cordon bleu was my specialty.”

That sounds pretty fancy for camp cookout fare, yet Mixdorf’s collection of books include both simple meals as well as classical French cuisine.

“I’ve owned Julia Child’s ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ for a long time,” he said. “In all the time I’ve owned her book, I have yet to master any of Julia’s meals.”

That’s OK, since Mixdorf is more likely to find a recipe in an old copy of a Better Homes & Garden cookbook or Betty Crocker cookbook.

This is something he has in common with Tammi Husk, the library’s circulation manager.

“I still have a copy of the Betty Crocker cookbook my grandma got me as a wedding gift,” Husk said. “You can still see I’ve rewritten some of my favoritesrecipes in the front of the book.”

When combined, cookbooks owned by both Mixdorf and Husk can easily fill a row of books at the library.

In fact, they’ve started a Cookbook Book Club, which is held every second Thursday of the month at the 2121 Dakota Ave. library

Amateur cooks are invited to bring in both a recipe and an example of their holiday candy at the Cookbook Book Club that is being held at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14.

“When Tammi and I started the Cookbook Book Club earlier this year, we were very strict,” Mixdorf said. “All of the recipes had to come from actual cookbooks.”

“We subsequently changed that restriction because we know people also use Internet websites or social media networks like Pinterest to pick up new recipes,” Husk said. “I know I do.”

Still, she has a preference for recipes that come from ingredient-stained cookbooks.

“Some of the best recipes come from old church cookbooks that you can pick up at rummage sales,” Husk said. “The food’s simple, but it’s also delicious.”

Like Husk, Mixdorf also has an affection for quirky specialty cookbooks. Yet the tomes that he owns are surprisingly pristine.

“If I see a recipe that I like in a cookbook, I’ll make copy of that page,” he said. “That way, the actual book never sees any wear or tear.”

Which is pretty smart for Mixdorf, who likes unique regional fare.

“I still make mincemeat pies every Thanksgiving,” he said. “Very few people eat mincemeat any more, but the holidays wouldn’t be the same without it.”

That’s one of the reasons cookbooks will never go out of style, according to Husk.

“Favorite recipes always lead to favorite stories,” she said. “So many of our memories are tied to the food we grew up eating.”

So, did Husk’s family ever make mincemeat pie?

“I remember my grandfather did,” she said. “Half of my siblings would eat it while the other half would not. Me? I was always the one who said ‘no’ to mincemeat pie.”