Old-Fashioned Cooking Guide

Use these six principles of old-fashioned cooking to take your family’s meals back to basics.

| January/February 2013

cinnamon rools

Get back to basics with old-fashioned cooking.

Photo by Fotolia/nata_vkusidey

Unpronounceable synthetic additives, partially hydrogenated fats, pink slime—modern processed foods leave many of us yearning for real food prepared simply. We long for the old-fashioned cooking methods our grandmothers used, when we could only buy ingredients—not packaged meals.

This guide to old-fashioned cooking might inspire you to get back to basics. But this is not a cooking guide. It is a guide to the key principles that underpinned the approach to cooking and meal planning of countless households before the advent of industrial agriculture. Old-fashioned cooking isn’t about fine dining. In profound ways, it isn’t about recipes or presentation, or even about cooking at all. It is about offering food that is in harmony with life as we live it today and as we want to live it tomorrow.

Old-fashioned cooking is simple and deeply flavored. It fills the kitchen with lovely smells, and like all good, honest food, it has the power to bring families and friends together. As you plan your meals, keep in mind the six principles outlined here as a guide to keeping things simple. Embrace basic recipes made with honest ingredients. If you are looking for a cookbook to help you, I recommend the 75th Anniversary Edition of the American classic The Joy of Cooking.

For delicious homemade cinnamon rolls like those pictured above, check out this Cinnamon Rolls recipe.

1. Frugality

Old-fashioned cooking is generous, sumptuous and sensual, but it always declares its frugality. The reason pot roast, not prime rib, epitomizes old-fashioned cooking is that pot roast brings out the best in the cheapest cuts of meat. Old-fashioned cooking is produced within the limits of a strict budget, and its strength comes from those limits. You can’t cook just anything for dinner—the budget won’t allow it.

Frugality is the discipline that structures the old-fashioned meal, requiring planning, thoughtful spending and minimizing waste. It can be a means to free up money to put into savings for personal and family dreams.

12/5/2013 8:02:26 PM

Thanks for a super article. I am going to post it on EZcooking Newsletter. Keep up the good work. Joymarie

sue breslin
12/5/2013 6:03:20 PM

Another great cookbook for 'scratch' cooking is "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook",Boston School of Cooking. I have 3 of them and one is dated from 1896... love love love this cook book.

11/29/2013 9:18:24 PM

Here's one site that has a long list of much older recipes: http://www.inmamaskitchen.com/food_intros/old_recipes.html Just Google 100+ year old recipes.

11/29/2013 9:16:50 PM

Here's one site that has a long list of much older recipes: http://www.inmamaskitchen.com/food_intros/old_recipes.html Just Google 100+ recipes.

joan gracyalny
2/1/2013 2:17:02 PM

Old (or new) Church recipe books are a fantastic source for finding "from scratch" recipes! They are full of heirloom recipes that are tried and true, and garage sales and used book stores are a great way to find these treasures on the cheap!

tina ruiz
1/31/2013 9:19:00 PM

The Joy of Cooking mentioned at the beginning of this article is a great from scratch cookbook! I spent years looking because I was tired of cookbooks telling me to use processed cereal, and packaged soup mixes in the recipes.

vivian sanders
1/31/2013 6:38:40 PM

This is what I learned growing up in the 50's and 60's. So easy to get away from it, but I haven't forgotten. This is how my mother and grandmothers cooked. Packaging is expensive and wasteful, albeit "convienent". I'm always happy to see when people cook real, wholesome food. You don't need 100 year old recipes. They just have to be 50 years old! p.s. I'm 60 and have been cooking from scratch most of my life for my family. My husband cooked when I was working and he was home due to disability. He cooked from scratch too! Just like his mom and grandmothers taught him!

marie devine
1/31/2013 6:18:45 PM

The Old-Fashioned Cooking Guide is good advice. I have been backing out of "modern" ways of eating and cooking and find a greater satisfaction and often a greater ease in creating simple meals with "hand tools." All we need is one solar flare and we will all need to know how to get along without electricity. Keep these articles coming.

cindy demaree
1/31/2013 6:18:32 PM

Fantastic article.... Now give us a recipe book of 100+ year old recipes!

elderberry, echinacea, bee hive


Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on Natural Health, Organic Gardening, Real Food and more!