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Unusual vintage recipe boxes - Cherished Family Hand Me Downs

Updated on August 16, 2013

Get ready to walk down memory lane as we explore unusual vintage recipe boxes from days gone by.

I am a fan of almost anything vintage (living in a home built in 1857 makes you that way....), but I especially love vintage recipe boxes. They tell a story of family heritage....

Remember your Grandmother's recipe box? It was probably metal, square and covered in daisies or some other feminine flower. My own Grandmother's was just like that only very old as it came with her from Russia in the early 1900s. I remember a dusty rose box with violas and other old fashioned flowers adorning the sides and top. How I loved the sight of that box - it meant something good was about to happen.

I well remember not only the particular recipe box that's shown in the picture (it was my Mom's), but I so remember the delicious foods which resulted from those little index cards. The recipes were mostly hand written (which makes them even more cherished) and we sometimes were making the same recipes of generations gone by. Talk about passing along family history!

So, in dedication to all the grandmothers, mothers, and maybe a father (Dad made the best pizza) who have fed me for the past 54 years, this Squidoo article is for you!

Vintage recipe boxes on

I love that Amazon carries about everything I've ever needed and this time, that rule holds. I went looking for recipe boxes and found some beauties, including those below.

In this day and age, why use index cards for recipes?

Some people might think it's backward to write out a recipe on an index card (which can be lost) and file it in a recipe box (which can be lost) instead of typing it out on a computer. Ah, they're missing something. So why use index cards for recipes?

1. There's something special about holding in one's hand a recipe written in the hand of a loved one. One of my favorite recipes is for Potato Pancakes and was given to me by my now departed sister, Stephanie. I love that recipe and pull it out every Chanukah (or Christmas) to make crispy potato pancakes for an appreciative dinner audience. I feel an immediate connection to her as I follow the steps in the recipe and produce a light and fluffy side dish that makes the mouth water.

2. You won't get flour and other ingredient on your computer keyboard as you work your way through the recipe. Instead, those chocolate finger prints on the index card may well be your own Grandmother's - a nice connection to the past.

3. It's easy to adapt an index card with additions or subtractions to the recipe. It's also nice to initial and date the changes so future generations can see how you made that recipe even better.

Some other nice vintage style recipe boxes

I just love these things. In fact, I love these recipe boxes so much that I'm thinking about buying a few for other uses, like keeping some desk supplies organized or as a nice tin for my costume jewelry.

vintage recipe boxes
vintage recipe boxes

My sister died in 1989 at only 36 years of age. It was certainly a traumatic time in our lives as we mourned the passing of one so young (it was a car accident). She didn't leave a whole lot behind and most of what she left went to her children. I do though have some crocheted doilies she made and a few very cherished recipe cards. The below is the best recipe in the world for potato pancakes - mix up a batch for Chanukah or Christmas this year.

  • Prep time: 10 min
  • Cook time: 5 min
  • Ready in: 15 min
  • Yields: 8 (6 hungry people...)


  • 4 Idaho Potatoes
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 T Matzo meal
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/8 t pepper
  • Vegetable oil


  1. 1. Grate the potatoes and onion into a colander. Squeeze out any excess liquid by placing a paper towel on top and pushing down. Repeat until there is very little moisture coming out of the mixture.
  2. 2. Add in the egg, matzo meal, salt and pepper and toss very well. The mixture should be fairly dry but not so dry that it crumbles when in the hand.
  3. 3. Heat oil to 350 or so. An electric skillet works wonders in turning out the very best, crispy potato pancakes.
  4. 4. Fry in oil until brown. Flip and fry other side until brown. Place on paper towels to drain.
  5. 5. Serve with a bowl of fresh sour cream. Enjoy!
  6. Hint: Always buy Idaho potatoes as they contain more starch and will make the best potato pancakes.
  7. Hint 2: If you're making a bigger batch, layer the already fried potato pancakes onto a cookie sheet lines with paper towels and place in the oven at 200 F to keep warm.
  8. Picture licensed under Creative Commons on courtesy of Edenpictures.
Cast your vote for My sister's potato pancake recipe

This is the recipe book my Mom put together for me for my birthday.

This is the recipe book my Mom put together for me for my birthday.
This is the recipe book my Mom put together for me for my birthday.

My own family recipe book

For my 40th birthday, my Mom asked me what I'd like. My instant reply was a recipe book written in her own hand of the favorite family recipes - and that's exactly what I got. Not only was I touched that she'd taken the time to write down the recipes in her arthritic hand, but she was giving me a gift of pure love. That recipe book is among my favorites.

Here's some pretty recipe books that you can gift to someone special-

Future keepsake blank recipe books

Some very pretty recipe cards

Whether you choose to get one of those cool metal recipe files or fashion a blank recipe book to your needs, you're going to need some recipe cards to fill them with. I like pretty cards although blank index cards work fine too. If possible, put a picture of the dish or the person whose recipe it was originally on the card. That's a cool touch:

Vintage recipe cards

This is the inside of the birthday card my Mom gave me when she gave me the recipe book. It's taped to the inside cover.

This is the inside of the birthday card my Mom gave me when she gave me the recipe book. It's taped to the inside cover.
This is the inside of the birthday card my Mom gave me when she gave me the recipe book. It's taped to the inside cover.


The picture you see is of the recipe my Mom gave to me that her neighbor (when she was a kid) gave to her. This recipe dates back to the early 1920's and means a lot to me.

  • Prep time: 5 min
  • Cook time: 55 min
  • Ready in: 1 hour
  • Yields: 8-12


  • 4 racks of baby back spareribs
  • 1 T minced onion
  • 3 sliced lemons
  • 1 stalk celery chopped
  • 1/2 bottle catsup
  • 1 T vinegar
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 bottle barbeque sauce


  1. 1. Add onions and salt to a stock pot. Add baby back ribs and water to cover. Boil baby back spareribs until will done (about an hour or so).
  2. 2. Add all other ingredients to a ziplock bag and toss baby back ribs to coat thoroughly.
  3. 3. Bake in oven at 350F for 20-30 minutes.

Vintage recipe files on eBay

I can't guarantee what will show in this section as I just set it to "vintage recipe files" and what comes up, comes up! I hope you find a nice vintage recipe box you can stock up for future generations.

Please leave me comments - I'm interested in your own experiences with vintage recipes - do you have any?

Do you have a favorite recipe or memory of recipes from your youth?

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    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      My aunt had a neat little wooden recipe box. I gave it to my daughter who promptly threw away most of the recipes. Errr. Oh well. I loved looking at those in her own handwriting. The moral of the story: If you want to keep it safe, keep it yourself with instructions for it to be passed on to another sentimental family member.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Your intro picture zoomed me back to Mom's kitchen, she has a very similar recipe box filled with old treasured recipes, I haven't seen it for years but it has a cream background with red, blue and green on it. I love that you pulled out some of your special recipes to share...I think potato pancakes and spar ribs would make a wonderful meal together...yummy!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Old recipes are such treasures. I was just in an ice cream shop in NH that has been there since the 1920s. They had their original recipes framed on the wall. Yellowed paper with spots and brittle tape were a testament to the age of these recipes that started their successful business.

    • bossypants profile image

      bossypants 5 years ago from America's Dairyland

      How kind of you to share your memories and treasured recipes with us! I do remember the recipe box (and have one, altho mine isn't a hand me down). My mom was more diva than domestic. She gave me an old (empty) recipe box that I have long used as an address box. I feel about my addresses on index cards the way you feel about your recipes on index cards. :) Wonderful lens!