This post is a part of TMP’s Historical Context series, in which I share excerpts from my collection of vintage publications.
Metropolitan Life Insurance — more commonly known as “MetLife” — has been around since 1868. Since at least the 1910s, the company has published annual cookbooks for its insurance-holders. (The oldest one I found through a quick archival search was from 1918, but there could be older versions in existence.)
On an excursion through my favorite local antique mall last October, I happened upon two of these little paperback cookbooks. One is from 1957, the other from 1964. The older of the two is stamped by the office of Melvin Kratz, a Metropolitan Life Insurance representative whose office was in Detroit. The 1964 booklet bears no stamp, so I can’t say with certainty, but considering the fact that the antiques dealer got them from the same person I assume they may both have been distributed by Kratz’s office.
In terms of content, the booklets appear to be identical. The inside covers feature helpful temperature and measurement guides. The recipes are split into sections: beverages; quick breads; yeast breads; soups; fish; meat; poultry; stuffings; sauces for meat; fish and vegetables; eggs; good, hearty main dishes; vegetables; salads and salad dressings; sandwich fillings; cakes; frostings and fillings; cookies; pies; puddings and fruit desserts; dessert sauces and finally, can sizes. Aside from differing color palettes, they feature all of the same recipes and cutesy illustrations. The ’64 booklet does feature one additional section titled “Backyard Barbecues” and a couple of blank pages for adding your own favorite recipes. Each edition is capped off with an index alphabetized by recipe title.
Most of the recipes listed in these books are pretty standard, but there are a few oddballs in the bunch, as can be expected with most midcentury cookbooks. Ever thought of mixing peanut butter, apple butter and cream cheese on a sandwich? I can’t decide whether that combination would be revolting or surprisingly delicious.
The second page of the “Beverages” section offers instructions for instant beverages that reads: “There are several excellent brands of instant coffee, tea, and cocoa available. Find the one you like; follow package directions for amounts.” There are also directions for canned soup that pretty much amount to “open can, pour soup in pot, mix with an additional can of milk, and serve.” I know pre-packaged foods were still relatively new, but they’re not difficult to get the hang of! I can’t imagine this simple advice would have been of use to many people.
There are some recipes that sound great too, though. Peanut Butter Loaf — a simple bread recipe with the addition of peanut butter for a unique taste — would be my next culinary experiment if not for my gluten allergy. “Coconut Macaroon Pie” also sounds amazing, but again… allergy prevents me from trying it. I’m not skilled enough in the art of using alternative flours to adapt the recipes yet, but here they are if any of you non-Celiacs would like to try ’em and report back: