This loose-bound vintage cookbook from Metropolitan Life is my oldest cookbook yet, and the only officially “antique” one (100+ years). The loose-leaf cover still displays gold letters on a blue background reading Metropolitan Life Insurance Cook Book. It was the first of a long series of ephemera that is still popular among cookbook collectors.
Origins of the Metropolitan Life Cookbooks
Before Snoopy and the snappy logos, MetLife was known by its full name, The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. From 1918 to the mid-1970s, it distributed booklets to its salespeople to hand out when they went selling insurance door to door. Traveling nurses also give them away to customers at home wellness checks. I suppose it was also in hopes that the wife would use it to cook healthy food and thereby lessen the need to use life insurance. After all, an ounce of preventative vegetables is worth the cardiac arrest life insurance payouts!
Diet and Recipes
The beginning of the original edition states the purpose is to promote healthy nutrients in the diet. It describes the necessary parts of a nutritious meal and breaks it down into recipes for each food group. Of course, there is still a dessert section, but it warns to treat confections lightly.
The vintage recipes represented within appeal to the average eater, unlike some of the overly creative product-specific brand booklets. I’ve recreated the original Pineapple Ice Cream recipe and am planning to try some from the 40s as part of the expanded wartime cooking series.