The Modern Family Cookbook by Meta Given

The Modern Family Cookbook by Meta Given, her first cookbook, was first published in 1942. When the “New Revised Edition” was published in 1961, which is shown above, there were “over 1,250,000 copies in print”.  According to the biographical information in  Ms. Given’s Modern Encylopedia of Cooking, she started cooking at a young age on her family’s farm in Missouri. The appreciation for cooking and the practical farming methods she observed on the farm during her youth led her to study home economics and later teach home economics. The Modern Family Cookbook and her Encyclopedia of Modern Cooking which was published in two volumes in 1947 were all revised and reprinted during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.  Ms. Given’s works were influential in the lives and kitchens of many mid-century cooks and homemakers.

One can clearly see Ms. Given’s background as a Home Economist as the first seventy pages of The Modern Family Cookbook are dedicated to topics of home economics – Altitude Cookery, Meal Planning, Diet Patters, Sample Menus, Food for Children, Stretching the Food Dollar, Tin Cans and Their Contents, Freezing Foods, Care of Food in the Home, Measurements, and the Cook’s Creed. 


The Cook’s Creed


The health of my family is in my care; therefore – 

I will preserve as far as possible the nutritive elements in the foods which are delivered to me. 

My family’s enjoyment of food is in my care; therefore – 

I will preserve and enhance the attractive qualities of the foods with which I work.

Stretching the food dollar is part of my responsibility; therefore –

I will take such care of foods that none will spoil. I will use left-overs with thought and skill.

A well-prepared dish and an appetizing meal are a creative achievement; therefore –

I shall derive happiness from work itself.

Good food is prime importance to my family; therefore –

I shall take pride in doing an outstanding job of cooking. 



In the section in which Ms. Given makes menu suggestions, she creates for the reader a daily menu for a week, for each month.  Do the math, that is 3 meals a day – Breakfast, Luncheon, and Dinner for 7 days a week, for 12 months – that is 252 menus and a countless number of recipes which are referenced in the cookbook.  She indicates that the menu suggestion is “a week’s guide using seasonal foods in thrifty balanced menus”.  Here is a Saturday menu for the month of January:

  • Breakfast 
    • Tangerines
    • Whole Wheat Muffins with Butter
    • Fried Sliced Luncheon Meat
    • Jelly
    • Coffee for Adults, Cocoa for Children
  • Luncheon 
    • Macaroni with Cheese Sauce
    • Stewed Tomatoes
    • Celery Cabbage, Raw
    • Bread and Butter
    • Cupcakes
    • Tea for Adults, Milk for Children
  • Dinner
    • Quick-baked Pike
    • Parsley Buttered Potatoes
    • Green Beans with Onions
    • Bread and Butter
    • Peach Salad
    • Cocoa Puff
    • Coffee for Adults and Milk for Children


The Saturday menu for June is:

  • Breakfast
    • Sugared Strawberries with Cream
    • Prepared Cereal with Top Milk
    • Cinnamon Toast
    • Coffee for Adults and Milk for Children
  • Luncheon
    • Green Beans
    • Toast with Welch Rarebit
    • Radishes
    • Bread and Butter
    • Stewed Rhubarb
    • Tea for Adults and Milk for Children
  • Dinner 
    • Swiss Steak
    • Mashed Potatoes
    • Creamed New Cabbage
    • Lettuce with Russian Dressing
    • Whole Wheat Bread and Butter
    • Watermelon
    • Coffee for Adults and Milk for Children


An Easter Sunday Dinner Menu is also included with the March daily menu suggestions. 

  • Easter Sunday Dinner
    • Roast Leg-of-Lamb with Brown Gravy
    • Oven-Baked Potatoes
    • Broccoli, Buttered
    • Mint Jelly or Currant Jelly
    • Celery Curls, Pickles
    • Cloverleaf Rolls
    • Meringue-decorated Apple Pie
    • Decorated Easter Eggs to Fancy Up the Table

The sections of the cookbooks are as follows:

  • Beverages
  • Breads
  • Cake
  • Candy
  • Cereals
  • Cheese
  • Cookies
  • Desserts
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Meat Sundries
  • Pastry and Pies
  • Poultry
  • Preserving and Canning
  • Salads
  • Sandwiches
  • Sauces
  • Soup
  • Vegetables
  • Deep Fat Frying
  • Leftovers
  • Miscellaneous Recipes
  • Glossary of Terms Used in Cooking
  • Index

The cookbook has a few color photographs throughout the cookbook.  The listed ingredients of each recipe are printed in red ink and the method is printed in black ink. Below are a few selected recipes from the cookbook.


Bread Pudding

5 slices day-old bread
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup moist raisins
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
3 cups milk, scalded
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon


Toast bread and spread with all the butter while hot. Arrange toast in a buttered baking pan (10.5 x 6.5 x 1.75 inches). Sprinkle with raisins. Stin salt and all but 2 tablespoons of the sugar into the eggs. Add milk and stir to mix well. Pour over the toast and let stand 10 minutes. Press toast slightly down into milk occasionally so it soaks up most of the milk mixture. Mix cinnamon with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and sprinkle over top. Place dish directly on oven rack. Bake in a moderate oven (350-degrees) about 25 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean and top is appetizing brown. Serve warm or cold. 5 to 6 servings. 

Note: The one recipe of my Grandmother’s recipes that I do not have a copy of is her Bread Pudding recipe. She made it so often as to make good use of old bread, she more than likely made it from memory and taste.  My grandmother baked her Bread Pudding in a glass pyrex loaf pan, and this appears to be a close match.  I will be conducting a taste-test soon!


Apple Snow

4 medium-sized tart or cooking apples
3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Custard Sauce


Pare, core, and slice apples in a saucepan; add 1/4 cup cold water, cover tightly, and cook slowly until mushy. Mash and whip until smooth and fluffy; there should be 3/4 to 1 cup stiff sauce. Chill. Beat egg whites until just fluffy, and gradually beat in the sugar and lemon juice until very stiff and smooth. Fold in the chilled apple sauce until thoroughly blended. Serve chilled with Custard Sauce and a spoonful of red jelly on top. 5 servings.

Custard Sauce 

2 cups of milk
2 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs or 5 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla


Scald milk in top of a double boiler. Beat eggs slightly, add sugar and salt, and slowly stir in scalded milk. Return to double boiler and cook over boiling water until mixture just coats a metal spoon. Remove from heat immediately, then stir in vanilla and chill. If overcooked, the custard will curdle. Curdled custard may often be restored by cooling immediately and beating with a rotary egg beater, but it will not be so thick. About 2 1/4 cups. 

Author: Meta Givens
Publisher: J. G. Ferguson Publishing Company, Chicago
Year Published: 1961
Pages: 632

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