Beyond the Cover: Betty Crocker's Party Book

April 10, 2015

We’ve been told not to judge a book by its cover, but what about its photography, layout, typefaces, paper—and how they all interact with each other? Each week, we’ll be sharing a book spread that’s worth taking a close look at for one reason or another. And we’ll ask you: What do you think about it?

Today: Betty Crocker's Party Book is a many-colored, illustrated, and photographed affair.

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Betty Crocker's Party Book
Golden Press (1960)
Illustrations by Anne and Harlow Rockwell

With instruction from Betty Crocker's Party Book, you could fashion a "fancy" fish net tablecloth or make Sputnik cheeseburgers for a space age adventure party and be taken back to the days of Suzy homemaker and, well, Betty Crocker. But more instantly impressionable are the photography and illustrations, which say vintage Americana kitsch right away. They almost make us want to make Jello salad. 

This book is now out of print and most of us will never get to cook from it, but flipping through it and finding wonders like this spread (that tablescape with three very different iterations of fish) reminds us that vintage cookbooks should always be perused whenever we stumble upon one at a garage sale, thrift store, or elsewhere. If we don't, we may be missing out on hidden gems—both recipes and images—from the past.

What are your favorite retro and wonderful cookbooks? Do you cook from vintage cookbooks, or look through them for blasts from the past?

Thank you to Kitchen Arts & Letters for letting us raid your store and borrow this book.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Cinnamin
  • molly yeh
    molly yeh
  • Ali Slagle
    Ali Slagle
Editor/writer/stylist. Author of I Dream of Dinner (so You Don't Have To). Last name rhymes with bagel.


Cinnamin April 11, 2015
Oooh I love the idea of this series!! I'd definitely want to cook that Jello salad. There's such a charm about vintage cookbooks. Don't think I'd pass one up at a garage sale either!!
molly Y. April 10, 2015
Ali S. April 11, 2015
Oh, you've never searched Betty Crocker's site for "gelatin salad"?

Somewhat unrelated, but this is one of my favorite pages on our site: