Abe of asked 500 customers who owned a cookbook that had been given to them by a family member to tell the story about their handed down culinary companions. He wrote, “Those old, splattered, battered cookbooks found on kitchen shelves are also treasured family heirlooms in many cases. According to research by, Irma Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking is the cookbook most frequently handed down through the generations. The books often spanned several generations of cooks and had huge sentimental value. In 96 per cent of the cases, a grandmother, mother and mother-in-law had handed over the book to the next generation. The books tended to have a long history within each family – 58 per cent of the cookbooks were more than 50 years old. Thirty eight per cent of the current owners said they had owned the book for more than 30 years…”

The cookbook I grew up on, and learned to cook from, was – as I have written before in Sandychatter—an Ida Bailey Allen Service cookbook that I believe my mother bought for a dollar at Woolworth’s. (I now have that very cookbook, which is certainly battered, tattered and stained. Years later I searched for, and found, more pristine copies). When I was a teenager, a copy of Meta Given’s “The Modern Family Cookbook” appeared in our family bookcase (a little cherry wood bookcase with glass doors, that my younger sister now has). I think it was a book club offering but that baffles me as neither of my parents ever joined a book club. I have a vague memory of my mother refusing to pay for it and so it languished on the family bookshelves until I began to read it and eventually claimed for my own. And, to add to the mystery, there is no indication on the inside pages of the cookbook that it was ever a book club selection. The original copyright was 1942. This edition was copyrighted by Meta Given in 1953, which sounds about right to me.
Not surprisingly, the pages most stained are those with cookie recipes on them- rocks and hermits, gum drop cookies, something called cocoa Indians, lemon drop cookies and molasses drop. My mother turned me loose in the kitchen when I was 9 or 10 years old and most of the time, I baked cookies.

I now own a copy of the original 1942 “Modern Family Cookbook” which is somewhat thicker and heavier than the 1953 edition. In 1947, Meta compiled “Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking which is in two volumes. I had to laugh at myself; I thought I only had a copy of Volume I but when I began going through some of my old cookbooks in our new built garage library, I found a copy of Volume II.

None of my copies of Meta Given books have dust jackets and therein is the crux of the matter – so often, biographical information can be found on the dust jackets of cookbooks. I began a Google search:

Margi Shrum of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote the following in April, 2009 “I spoke last week to a group of parents of special-needs children, and the conversation turned to old cookbooks. Egads, I love them. My favorite is one my late mother used, “Meta Given’s Encyclopedia of Cooking,” which seems to have been first published in 1947. I have the 1955 edition. It’s chock-a-block with antiquated stuff. I never, and you shouldn’t, use the techniques for canning or preserving foods in these old books, and I am never going to make Muskrat Fricassee (calls for one dressed muskrat. If I could picture what a muskrat looked like I’d picture it dressed in top hat and tails. Carrying a cane). But there’s also a lot of useful stuff in this book, which is in two volumes and has 1,500 pages. I’ve tried loosely over the years to find information about the author but to little avail. She was of some note in the 1940s through the early ’60s, if the popularity of her cookbooks is any indication. Her first was the “The Modern Family Cookbook,” published in 1942.”

Margie adds, “The encyclopedia’s foreword says Ms. Given grew up on a ‘Missouri hill farm’ learning to cook with the limited foodstuffs available to her. She then studied home economics and became involved in developing and testing recipes, and in writing about nutrition, shopping and kitchen equipment. Her foreword to my edition — purchased on eBay and immediately chewed on by my golden retriever puppy, who smelled food — was written from Orlando in 1955….”

May I add that the foreword also states that Meta Given…”had good food (growing up) but little variety. The women were forced to be resourceful in presenting the same simple foods in a variety of interesting ways. She watched food grow on her family’s farm and worked to help it develop into a sound and abundant harvest. She learned to store and preserve a summer’s plenty to last through the winter months. And she acquired from her parents a deep appreciation for the goodness of earth’s bounty…”

Sure enough, Volume II of “Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking” offers a recipe for Muskrat Fricasse—as well as antelope, deer and beaver. It also has a recipe for Hasenpfeffer which I won’t ever be trying. Hasenpfeffer was the bane of my childhood. If you came home from school and smelled it cooking, you knew we were having it for dinner and there was no escape.

Also offered in Volume II are recipes for raccoon, squirrel, woodchuck and turtle. Meta lost me at “evisceration and removal of feathers, removal of fur….” But you know what? Of all the comprehensive cookbooks in my collection, these are surely the most detailed (everything you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask? I wasn’t afraid to ask—I just never wanted to KNOW).

Elsewhere on Google, someone wrote, “My mother was only 17 years old when she got married. Somewhere in that time, she was given a special two volume cookbook set called Meta Given’s Encyclopedia of Modern Cooking. It was a true cookbook of the 50’s, offering advice so basic, the author must have assumed many of her readers couldn’t boil water. Until Julia Child altered my mother’s views on food, Meta Given’s was the only cookbook in our home. The recipes were so simple and straightforward, I learned to cook from them at a very young age. By the time I was nine years old I could make real fudge, basic one-bowl cakes, quick breads, and peanut butter cookies all by myself. I also learned to make a pumpkin yeast bread when I was slightly older. Over the years my mother’s Meta Given’s cookbook disintegrated into a pile of loose pages. However, I was able to track down a used set several years ago. Although most of the recipes seem outdated, it was quite an experience just holding the cookbook while childhood memories rushed back…”

The following single line clue was also found on Google: “When not penning cookbooks, Ms. Given—I don’t think she’d approve the title, but an extensive Google search fails to reveal her marital status— taught Home Ec at the University of Chicago in the post-World War II years…”

Maybe Meta Given tired of teaching in Chicago and returned to her home in Missouri. We may never know- but if you are interested in finding her books, there are umpteen sites to choose from as you browse through Google.

I have the following:
• The Modern Family Cook Book published in 1942
• Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking Volumes 1 and II published in 1947
• The Modern Family Cook Book, published in 1953

As well as the following, which I do not have:
• The Art of Modern Cooking and Better Meals: recipes for every occasion
• The Modern Family Cook Book New Revised Edition
• The Modern Family Cook Book by Meta Given 1968
• The Wizard Modern Family Cookbook
• Delicious Dairy Dishes

If you know anything about Meta Given’s life, I’d love to hear from you!

Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting!




  1. I now have 3 generations of Joy of Cooking. My awesome DIL says she already has her eye on my Julia Child. My Mom’s Lilly Wallace cookbook turned up with Brunswick stew recipe that my husband was amused to find out called for “2 grey squirrels.”

    • Carol, you are my kind of cookbook collector! and Isn’t the Lily Wallace cookbook a good one? I was blown away when I really began going through the 2-volume set of Meta Given’s cookbooks–she tells you how to cook virtually every kind of game. And I got a kick out of your blog name “newgrandmas” – will have to visit it. I am working on something related to grandmothers right now for my blog. Many of the older cookbooks, especially those from the 30s and 40s – are a wealth of information. ** I rediscovered one of the settlement cookbooks recently…I have a bunch of different editions – but this one, it turned out, had belonged to a girlfriend who passed away in 1999 and is full of clippings and handwritten recipes. I am savoring it. We became friends in 1965 and started collecting cookbooks at the same time. Thank you for writing! – Sandy

  2. My husband asked for his Mom’s Joy of Cooking because of the fudge recipe. She gave it to him a few Christmases ago. It is filled with all kinds of hand-written recipes in the back, like Grape Hull Preserves, one of his favorite memories. What a treasure!

  3. Hi Sandy, I am an avid Meta Given cook book user. I am offended by the comment that no one should use the canning techniques in the cook book. I would say you have either never canned foods or that you use newer equipment. But I can tell you after reading and using her techniques that they just as valid for use today as they have ever been. So I would suggest you retract your statement regarding these techniques. And as far as the muskrat comment – if that is all you have, I at least would like to know how to cook it. Regarding the antiquated statement – if half of the people who are over weight studied this book from cover to cover and used most of it’s suggestions they would not be overweight, sick or die of an early age from an illness. I suggest you read the book and retract some of you negative remarks. This book is as relavant today as it was 60+ years ago. It may not be fancy enough for you, but it still works for me and my family after three generations of cooking and eating – by the way we live well into our 80s and 90s with very few health issues.

    • Dear Meta Given fan: Well, I was baffled by your message when I first read it in my Verizon email – I couldnt remember ever writing anything negative abour canning (and yes, I do can) – or the muskrat comment. Please go back and read the article again. I was quoting someone named Margi Shrum at the Pittsbugh Post Gazette– SHE made those comments, which are all in quotes and appeared in the Pittsburgh Post azette in April, 2009. I love Meta Given. I was searching around on google for information about her. What I DID say is that “also offered in Volume II are recipes for raccoon, squirrel, woodchuck and turtle. Meta lost me at ‘evisceration and rmoval of fearhers, removal of fur’ but you know what? Of all the comprehensive cookbooks in my collection these are surely the most detailed (everything you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask?)…. I thought it was very clear that I was quoting someone else when the paragraph started with “Margi Shrum of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette wrote the following in April 2009…” and she goes on to make the remarks about canning and muskrat.
      I am sorry you were offended but I was not the offendee. I am a huge Meta Given fan myself and dont believe I have anything to apologize for. Thank you for writng. Sandy

  4. Hi Sandy, Please let me know if you ever find out what happened to Meta Givens. I have been going through some old family letters and it turns out that my great aunt Helen Swadey was her assistant in the 40’s and 50’s. She would help with the writing and arranging the final meals for the photo shoot. Thanks! Don

    • Hi, Don – how interesting that your great aunt worked for Meta Given! I HAVEN’T learned anything more than what I wrote but maybe someone will read this and write, if they know anything else about her. Oddly enough I have had emails from a number of people, in response to other cookbook authors I have written about – so there’s always a possibility that someone will see the inquiry and shed some light on this prolific and excellent cookbook author. Now, that would have been a job I’d have loved – assistant to Meta Given! let me know if you learn anything else. thanks Sandy

    • Don, I am preparing a Birthday Party for my mother who turns 80 this July. We are having a picnic theme, and we are replacing my mother’s Meta Givens Cookbooks with a better set. The sisters of the family are HUGE fans of Meta Givens, and I am trying to find anything out about her to have it framed for my mother to put in her kitchen. She raised all of us girls using this cookbook and we all have copies!! I know I am a little late adding this comment, but can you or anyone help me out? Sincerely, Brenda

      • Maybe Don will be able to provide you with some additional information; I personally dont know anything more than what I have posted about Meta Givens. I love your idea for your mother though. I hope Don sees this and responds to you. hey, let us know how the party goes. – sandy@sandychatter

    • Janice (King) Smith

      According to census reports she returned to her hometown of Bourbious, MO and later relocated to Florida. Being from the general area, I was happy to have The Modern Family in my collection and enjoy seeing the differences between how she prepared the meal versus what we were taught by my grandma who lived during the same time frame literally 3-4 hours away from each other.

      • Dear Janice,
        Thanks for writing. I have been unable, for years, to provide a final chapter to Meta Given’s life. It means a great deal to me to have, at last, some answers. I imagine she did what she set out to do, writing some very important and well written cookbooks–and then it was as if she said enough and put away her typewriter. Maybe some more about her life will surface with your email. I am delighted to have heard from you, about Meta Given and I think other readers will like knowing this as well. many thanks, Sandy

  5. Hi Brenda,
    Send me an email off the blog and I will tell you what I have.

  6. I had to comment because one of my earliest memories of Thanksgiving is my mother and grandmother quoting Meta Given about making turkey gravy: “You can only make so much fine favored gravy.” I haven’t even looked at the recipe in years, but must admit that I do know how to make fine flavored gravy and I don’t even eat gravy! Thanks Meta.

    I have my grandmother’s copy. My mother still has and uses her own copy. My oldest daughter has her other grandmother’s 2 book set. Over the years, I have managed to collect one of the single book editions for my sister and two copies of the 2 book sets for my sisters-in-law. Just recently, I finally got the single book edition for my youngest daughter. We are a family devoted to Meta Given, which is why I found your blog. I was looking for some information about her and started to do some research. So, if you find out anything else about her, I’d be delighted to hear it and then I will in turn share it with the rest of the family. Thanks!

    • Hello, Karen – THANK YOU SO MUCH for your message. I live and breathe for moments like this, when I am able to connect with someone throuh a love of a cookbook or an author…I love how you have your grandmother’s set and have given some of her books to other family members as gifts. If I am able to learn anything else about Meta I will certainly share it with you–its been a puzzle to me that I dont know more. But I could say the same about Myra Waldo – when I first wrote about HER I didnt know what happened to her – she simply disappeared from our culinary landscape…and then I found an obituary on Google and that told me the rest of the story. I am sure someone out there knows the rest of Meta Given’s story. Thank you again! – Sandy@sandychatter.

  7. I’m a 44-year old single guy who grew up with a mother who occasionally whipped out this tattered, index-missing BIBLE. I have no other name for it… other then the BIBLE that was in our kitchen. Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking. The version I’m most familiar with is the single volume gem published in 1955 on its EIGHTEENTH printing (35,000 copies). My mom was inspired by the “White Sauce” in that book – creamed onions were a Thanksgiving tradition. Like most people who are reading this, when I finally understood the power of Google I FINALLY had a chance to have my own copy of this piece of history – it’s WAY more than a cookbook and we all know it. I paid almost $200 because I just had to have it. Since then I purchased a “backup” copy – you know… just in case. That one is in a safe room where the temperature and humidity are just right 😉 A few years ago I stumbled upon a dessert recipe that blew me away – Lemon Chiffon Custard on page 746 in my book. “A puffy cake-like topping and a creamy custard bottom layer.” OMG

    • Thanks for writing, Neil–it’s emails such as yours that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside – that something I LOVE writing about has reached out and made a connection with someone else. You may have seen some of the other messages inspired by Meta Given’s cookbooks. I may have to check out the Lemon Chiffon Custard – that sounds good! and here’s the really great thing about cookbooks such as those written by Meta Given – the recipes are timeless – you can reach back in time, over 50 years ago, and follow her recipes today as easily as anything else being published. Isnt it wonderful? Yeah, I love Google too. It’s my #1 resource.

      THANKS AGAIN! – Sandy

  8. I am doing a little research on Meta Given… My Mother’s maiden name was Given. I was told Meta Given was a Great Aunt of Mine from Missouri that wrote cookbooks, and I have all copies of her cookbooks, and learned to cook from them. The books I have have been passed down through the years from my grandmother..Ruby Given, to my mother Anna Jane Given, and now to me. I will be passing them on someday to my children and grandchildren!

    Thanks Anna

    • Hello, Anna! I am delighted to hear from you….Meta Given has been one of the authors its been difficult to learn more biographical details about–how wonderful that you have your great-aunt’s cookbooks–as you may have noticed from the comments I have received about her, she still has a following of people interested in her books. Can you tell me how many books you have and what the titles are so I can pass that information along to my readers? I would be delighted. Thank you for writing! what a thrill it is hearing from you! Regards, Sandy smith (sandychatter).

    • Hi Anna, I have been looking up your family history. According to a Texas Dept. of Health Birth records your mother’s name may have been Terrecia Anna Jane Given and your Grand mother was Ruby Marion Brown married to Charles Weaver Given who’s name in the 1920’s census was Charles W. Givens. With your Great Grand mother and Father being Benjamin and Elizabeth Givens who were from Missouri and Benjamin’s parent were from (West) Virginia. I have found records that show Meta Given’s Grand Parents were from Virginia and her father was born in Missouri. It is possible that you may be related, however I am not sure about the Great Aunt – more likely a distant cousin. Since Meta’s parents James and Ann only had two girls Meta and Carrie. However, I know that my mother is often called Aunt when the people are actually her cousins and not her nieces/nephews. So the aunt may be in that reference. I would like to share with you what I have found – you can correspond through here or you can send me a message on facebook. You will find that I have started a page called Modern Encyclopedia Cookbook – under my name Danette Bishop Mondou. I am not related, however I am doing research on Meta Given and her cook book as this is our family (bible) of cook books.

      • Hello Danette–you took the time to look up and share all of this information about the Given name–I noticed its been over a year since you wrote to me with your initial inquiry…I am taking the liberty of emailing a message to you at the email address you had a year ago & hoping its still in effect. I was thrilled, on your behalf, that someone looked up all this information. – regards, Sandy

      • Hello Danette,
        Thank you so much for the information. I have since learned Meta was indeed a distant cousin for my mother. My great great grandparents were Benjamin and Elizabeth Given. My great grandfather was their son Castillous. I have been doing a lot of family research and was in Missouri this past August visiting with some cousins researching more of the family history. I look forward to seeing the facebook page and will refer other family members to it.


      • I’m delighted that my interest in Meta Given, and by writing about her, has garnered more interest from people and places. Thank you, everyone, for writing. – Sandy

  9. Glad to see I’m not the only one puzzled by the lack of Meta Given info on the otherwise nearly complete internyet… please pursue the leads you’ve got and tell us more! I think she dserves not to be forgotten… /robert

    • Hello Robert – did you see the comments left by Anna, who is a great-niece of Meta Given? she is trying to give me a little more information so perhaps I will be able to do an update on Meta Given, like I was able to write an update on The Browns. I couldnt do it without the interest and correspondence from family members or friends of the cookbook authors I have endeavored to write about. I am so often thrilled beyond anything I could explain when someone like Anna writes to me and says something like Meta Given was a great aunt of mine…it’s like finding missing pieces to a big puzzle Stay tuned for a possible update! – Sandy

      • Hello again – I’ll wait and hope for that as will others!
        And I was just looking for information on Bob Brown (who I recently discovered and need to know/read more from!), which brought me to your website again!
        OK, now I’ll bookmark it as the cookbook reference site!

  10. I have the 1953 version of Meta Given’s Modern Family Cookbook. I turn to this book when I need to know how I should cook a vegetable that won’t be listed in most cookbooks and I have more than 100. I am going to cook turnips today and I want to know a cooking time. I recently checked in this book for a cooking time for beets. I have two of these books but one is so battered that I am afraid to open it.
    Gil Wilbur

    • I’m surprised that Meta didnt provide this information. From Canadian Living: cook turnips on the stove, bring a pot of water to a boil, then lower heat, adding in chopped turnips. Cook until you can easily insert a fork, drain and serve with butter, a sprinkle of brown sugar, salt and pepper.
      Will let you know if I learn anything else. Seems like the bottom line is – cook them like you would boiled potatoes. – Sandy

  11. ROBERT! Happy to hear from you again. I am also still waiting for the information about Meta Given that a reader said she would provide. MEANtime, if you go to my most recent piece about the Browns–recently updated–you will discover that a descendant of Bob Brown’s wrote to me a while back, thanking me for the write up about their ancestors–Bob Brown was his great-grandfather, I believe. And I think a member of the family HAS written something about the life of Bob Brown–who was far more prolific in his writings than just the dozen or so cookbooks that I covet so much. Another descendant helped me find a copy of the Browns’ Vegetable cookbook, the only one I was missing in the collection. It’s the highlight of my day when a family member (or in some instances, friends) of the people I write about discover I am writing about their relative and write to say they liked what I had written. It boggles my mind because just discovering all this added information was never possible before the internet – and google. All I had originally about the Browns was what had appeared on the dust jackets of their books. We’ve come a long way, baby. Thanks for writing! Sandy

  12. I stumbled upon this blog post looking for information on Meta Given. I collect cookbooks (and I sell some, but I can’t help but give some away to true collectors; it’s like giving kittens away to a good home) and found myself in possession of Meta’s The Modern Family Cookbook. I immediately fell in love with it. At an auction tonight, I was delighted to find volumes one and two of the 1955 printing of Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking, in beautiful condition! Perusing through my bargain treasures tonight, I found myself wondering about this sensible, intelligent author. Alas, it looks like we only have so much information on her, but she can live on as a counter top cookbook stand legend. Thanks for posting what you were able to find about her! Much appreciated.

    • Danielle, I live for messages such as yours, confirmation from other women (or even men) who love the same cookbook authors that I love too – read the other messages sent to me by Meta Given fans. Read the messafe from a woman named Anna – she is descendant from Meta Given. I’m waiting for someone to find my messages and tell us what happened to Meta Given. You had a good find! her books are wonderful, even all these years later. – Sandy

  13. Hi Sandy,My mom had Meta’s cookbooks,too.They accidently got put into stogage,with a whole household of stuff after she died.I don’t know if you’ll get this in time, but I’m desperately looking for the Pumpkin Chiffon Pie from that book to make for a New Year’s Eve party tomorrow night. I made one for Christmas from the Better Homes and Gardens Anniversary cookbook,which was the other cookbook my mom and I used a lot.It was good , but not quite the way I remembered it. Then I remembered the one I used to make had orange zest in it. So, Ithink it was from the Meta Givins cookbook. If you have time,would it be possible for you to post the Pumpkin Chiffon Pie recipe from the Modern Encyclopedia Book. I’ve tried googling for the Meta Given’s version, but the only one of hers posted is the regular pumpkin pie, not the Chiffon. Her Pumpkin Chiffon Pie is absolutely “To Die For” 🙂

    Thanks so much,
    Mary Jane

    • Quick note:the time stamp is off. I actually posted this on Dec.30th 5:30 pm,so there is actually more time to reply than it looks 🙂

    • sorry I didnt get this sooner, Mary Jane – I have out of town company and havent been online very much. I WILL look into my Meta Given cookbooks first thing tomorrow morning and see if I can find the recipe (AS I write this, its 11:17 pm on 12/30/12 –Hoping I can find it first thing & get it to you. I know the time sequence with wordpress is off; when I post something late in the day here in California, it wont show up until the next day.not sure where their headquarters are but I dont think its west coast.
      thanks for writing and the alert. – Sandy

    • Here it is Mary Jane and I hope it isnt too late:

      ½ TSP SALT
      ¼ TSP GINGER
      ½ CUP 12% CREAM, HALF & HALF
      3 EGG WHITES
      6 TBSP SUGAR
      1 TSP SUGAR

      BAKE AND COOL PASTRY SHELL. FILLING: sprinkle gelatin over water to soften 5 minutes. Blend next 6 ingredients in top of double boiler, then stir in pumpkin, yolks and cream. Beat with rotary beater** until thoroughly blended. Remove and wash beater. Place over boiling water and cook, stirring, until thick and very smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in gelatin until dissolves; stir in extract or rind. Cool by setting in pan o cold (iced) water until like thick honey, but not congealed. Beat egg whites to a stiff foam, then add the 6 tbsp sugar gradually, beating to a stiff glossy meringue. With a rubber scraper, cut and fold meringue into pumpkin mixture lightly but thoroughly. Turn mixture into baked pastry shell, quickly spreading out level. Chill until set, 2 to 3 hours before cutting. (This filling is soft barely holding shape when cut) TOPPING: Just before serving, spread with sweetened whipped cream and garnish with thinly cut nuts or serve plain.
      Sandy’s cooknote: Whenever I have oranges on hand, I make grated orange rind and keep it in a small container in the freezer. I do the same with lemon rind—and more recently, grated lime rind. It’s really convenient to keep on hand.
      **Re the rotary beater- I don’t know how many people would have one of these on hand anymore (I do, but I sort of collect old kitchen utensils). If you have one of the electric hand mixers, this should do the trick. I chuckled reading this but my copies of these two books were published in 1959 with an original copyright date of 1947.
      Happy cooking! Sandy

      If for any reason you can’t read this, I can send it to your email address.

      • Thank you so much,Sandy.This is definitely the right recipe.When I made the pie at Christmas form the other recipe,I automatically pulled out the double boiler,then noticed that it didn’t use one in the recipe. Now I know where I got the idea from. 🙂 Thank you again for going to all the trouble to find this, and my guests will also thank you once they taste it. 🙂

        Mary Jane

  14. Mary Jane – please drop me a line after the holiday and let me know how your pie turns out. since you had the recipe before, the amount of work involved probably won’t faze you. Am happy that I found it!! I had company last night until late and knew I couldnt trek out to the garage (I have a garage library that my BF Bob built in 2010) to look for it that late at night. I hope your guests appreciate all the work you went to, to find it! 🙂

    • Sandy,the pie came out great. It’s amazing that 1/8 teaspoon of orange zest, and 1/16th of cloves can make such a big difference. All the other ingredients from the other cookbook we’re the same, just in different proportions. It tasted like I remember from when I was a kid. And everybody at the party loved it. Thanks again so much…it feels like I got a bit of my mom,and childhood back.

      Mary Jane

  15. Mary Jane, I couldnt be more pleased that the pie was a success than I would if I had baked it myself. Thanks for reporting back to me. Readers take note! Meta Given’s cookbooks are still assets to have in your cookbook collection today!

  16. Sandy and Mary Jane, that’s kind of funny. I’ve just received my 1947 editions of Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of cooking today (purchased via auction for the enormous sum of $1.50) and was interested in checking out the recipe for Pumpkin Chiffon Pie since the two of you were discussing it. Did you realize that the recipe changed somewhat over the years? For example in the 1947 edition there is no mention of nutmeg or cloves, dark brown sugar is replaced by light brown and some of the measurements for other ingredients vary. The method instructions are also more detailed in the later version. I wonder why and when (and by whom) the recipe was modified. Another mystery perhaps.

    • Hello Diane:
      Wow, that’s funny – it didnt even occur to me that certain ingredients might have changed from one edition to another – MY BAD! but thank you so much for pointing this out. I think the integrity of the pie remains solid – the extra seasonings might have been to give it a boost…and I, persoally, prefer dark brown sugar over light – I use the dark brown most of the time in my cooking and baking. Will you make the pie and get back to us on the results??? Thanks, Sandy

  17. Dear Sandy,
    Today a customer asked me if I knew anything about Meta Given, and I had to admit I didn’t. So I started digging online (not for the first time), and after finding your wonderful post, I kept on digging and found this appreciation by Jane Nickerson:,3793027

    So now we know a LITTLE more about M.G.–but we still want to know more, don’t we?!

    Bonnie Slotnick

    • Oh, Bonnie, I almost fell off my typing chair! After all this time searching for the “rest of the story” about Meta Given – there it is! I am trying to figure out how to print a copy of the Lakeland Ledger article–do you have any idea? I am so excited about this find; I would like to write a shorter blog article about it – if you read all of the responses to my original article, you will see that others have often wondered what happened to Meta.
      Thank you so much!! – Sandy

    • Bonnie – tell me, do you know ANY way of printing an article that has appeared in the Lakeland Ledger? I’ve exhausted my knowledge–I would love to write a “rest of the story” for my blog, about Meta. So many people have written to me about the article ever since it was first posted. Well, I don’t have a spare typewriter or computer to make copying some data and short of writing it all in longhand I don’t know what to do next. The interesting facts about her life after writing cookbooks will fascinate everyone who has asked about her. help! anyone know how to do this? I think its a PDF file I am looking at. – Sandy

      • I have a Macbook laptop,so this may not help you, but you can do a screen grab(capture,picture)hit and hold COMMAND-SHIFT-4. it will change your curser into a little aiming devise with a cross with grey circle around it,and some numbers.release the keys you were holding.put your curser(aimer) at the top left corner of the article-then hold down the bar on the track pad to engage it,and move your finger on the track pad until the whole article is covered in gray. Release the bar, and it will take the picture. That’s how it works on mine, but that may not help you at all 🙂

      • Thanks Mary Jane – I can’t wait to try this. – Sandy

      • Bonnie, I found email and regular mail addresses for Lakeland Ledger – could not get the email address to work so I am sending a letter. maybe if I include a self addressed and stamped envelope they will send a copy of the article to me? It’s worth a try! – Sandy

      • Sandy, the article’s not that long–I’ll keyboard it and email it to you.
        Stand by!

      • Now, thanks to Bonnie Slotnick, of Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in New York, we know the rest of the story about Meta Givens. I will be doing an update on the beloved cookbook author soon as I get all my ducks in a row. Thanks, Bonnie! – Sandy

      • Thanks for the article, Bonnie. I have deleted it from the comments section since I want to use a lot of this information in an upcoming article. Will give you credit as well as indicate quotes from Lakeland Ledger. I didn’t want the entire article to appear under comments – it would defeat my purpose. sometimes I don’t know what I’m doing – many thanks. Sandy

  18. PS to Meta Given fans – Bonnie Slotnick has a cookbook store in New York. I recognized the name, couldn’t think where from – so I googled her name and found her website. Cookbook collectors may want to visit her website – Sandy

    • Thanks for the plug, Sandy! I hope you were able to print out the article. I was out of town today and even if I’d been here I wouldn’t have been able to tell you how to do it.
      I hope some of your fans will be able to visit my shop–my website just gives the basic facts, and I don’t sell books online. But I’m happy to receive phone calls, email, snail mail, or best of all, in-person visits. Unlike “Abe of Abebooks” (ABE stands for Advanced Book Exchange) I’m a real person and I love to help people find a cookbook they love–or reunite them with one they’ve loved and lost.

      PS Too bad Jane Nickerson is no longer around to tell us about the rest of her interview with Meta Given. Maybe her papers are in an archive somewhere . . .

  19. Hi Sandy, thank you for starting this blog. I have been a Meta Given fan for years and like many others I have been searching for more information about her. I just found an interview with Miss Given from 1975 by Jane Nickerson in the Ocala Star- Banner.,4752255&dq=meta+given&hl=en
    It’s nice to know that a woman who still inspires us is getting well deserved attention.

    • Hi, Jackie – In the small world department, a cookbook store owner in NY found the same interview with Ms. Given and sent to me – have incorporated it in my update. Thanks for writing. Meta Given has many followers!

  20. Hey, those newspaper articles are great – I found that by searching that direction a little one can get others, including some of her columns from back in the 1940s… Haven’t looked through so much yet, but perhaps some of the other mysteries can be sleuthed out as well.
    This for example:,ar:1&source=newspapers

    is a start…

    When I do this sort of thing (saving old articles from this source for future reference) I usually screenshot the article, save to jpg, and then, if needed, convert to PDF and text-read. Sometimes you have to be crafty to get all the text in the right order (expanding the newspaper view on the screen and closing all the google nonsense helps, as does fullscreening the browser page before screenshotting, to get max article and min nonsense, though sometimes I leave in adjacent content like those grocery prices…)

    /robert again

  21. Meta Given apparently wrote for newspapers quite extensively. The website has an archive of searchable newspaper pages, and I’ve found numerous columns in “The Knickerbocker News” from 1942 by searching for “Meta Given” (with parentheses). I also found an article in “Whitesville News” on the same site by “Meta H. Given” from 1926. I consider it worth checking out, as not all the recipes are found in my 1959 edition of Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking.

    • Thanks for writing, Judith. Someone sent me some of the information about the newspaper columns —when I first started writing about Meta Given some years ago, there was almost nothing on Google – the newspaper columns had not been posted yet. When I wrote about her again for my blog, there was still not very much to be found – suddenly the newspaper columns began to be posted on Google. I recommend them to everyone who likes her cookbooks. The columns are valuable–I just haven’t been able to figure out a way to print any of them. – Sandy

  22. My copy of the Modern Family Cook Book my Meta Given is the “new revised edition” copyright 1958. It’s beat-up and coming apart but I still keep it because my mom gave it to me when I moved out of the house. Even still has the dust jacket on it 🙂

    • thanks for writing, Allen – I have heard that quite a bit since I first wrote about Meta Given. My SECOND cookbook was one of Meta Given’s – probably the same one you have. it came in the mail from a book club; my mother didnt order it and refused to use it (her first cookbook, which became my first cookbook was an Ida Bailey Allen service cookbook, which I have written about as well) – well, I took over the Meta Given cookbook & took it with me when I moved out of the house in 1958. Only years later did I start to discover the width and depth of Given’s cookbook writing. There is a two volume set that has EVERYthing imaginable in it – even cooking raccoon and squirrel–it was meant to tell farm & country women everything they needed to do to cook WHATEVER. You are lucky that yours has its dust jacket–I lost mine years ago (I didnt know back then that dust jackets enhance the value of a cookbook.Thanks for writing! I love hearing from people like you! – Sandy

  23. I’m a 59 year old married guy who loves to cook, especially out of Mom’s Meta Given’s cookbook. I inherited the book when Mom passed away in 1997. I just finished making fudge, English toffee and candied orange peel over the last two days. Yummy and sugar/fat laden! However, Meta gives a stern warning about eating too much candy! As noted by several on this blog, some of her ideas are outdated. My 14 year old son informed me her view on the metabolic virtues of raw sugar are not consistent with what he is learning in health class…but in the main I think she got it right. Eat for nutrition, but don’t forget getting pleasure out of what you eat. She harkens to an era where personal responsibility, self-control and common sense were the keys to health– not government sponsored therapy.

    If she was at University of Chicago she must have done well professionally– I bet there is a story of great interest. I wonder if the U of Chicago would have some archived information on her? Bet it could be great movie…seriously. Thanks for this post!

    • Thank you for writing!! I am always thrilled whenever someone responds to one of the articles I have written about cookbook authors. When I first endeavored to write about Meta Given, there was almost nothing to be found anywhere on the Internet. I think my writing about her, and the responses, have generated enough interest that now you can find more details on I was surprised by some of the background information that eventually surfaced. I now have several of her cookbooks and was astounded by the wealth of recipes not easily found anywhere else (such as how to cook….almost any wild animal you can name). I am willing to bet that there IS other information about Meta buried somewhere–possibly at the U of Chicago. I hope you enjoy my blog and will read some of the articles about other “gone but not completely forgotten” cookbook authors. – Thanks again for writing. Thanks also for the comment from your son–no doubt he’s right about some things being outdated – but one thing I have found about recipes such as those Meta provided – they pretty much pre-dated almost all convenience packaged foods – but everyone who has ever written about these recipes has agreed that the recipes are timeless. – Thank you again! – Sandy@sandychatter

  24. Last night, my brother and I were talking and he asked me if I had our mother’s sour cream pound cake recipe. I indicated that I didn’t think so, but my guess was that she probably used Meta Given’s recipe. Miss Givens, you see, went to our church in Orlando! Although I haven’t looked through my cookbook ‘box’ in years, I’m pretty sure I still have my mother’s copy. Miss Givens was a wonderful woman with a very imposing look about her. Since I was a kid, I don’t remember talking to her too much, but I do remember my mom and my mother-in-law and Meta being friends. There is a woman in my congregation now that I’m sure will remember her, eager to talk with her on Sunday. Just for giggles today I Googed Meta’s name, and found your site. So wonderful to know that her influence is still far-reaching.

    • Thanks, Diana – maybe all those years Meta Givens was a teacher gave her an imposing look. Let me know if you find your recipe – if not, let me know & I will go through my collection of her books. – regards, Sandy

  25. Connie Strobach

    I have Vol. 1 and 2 of Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of cooking and would like to sell. Wanting help to find a buyer.

    • are you still searching for a buyer, Connie? I wonder if someone who wants the set has noticed your message. I’m re-posting hoping it helps. – Sandy

  26. This was so delightful to read! I found the “Modern Family Cookbook” at the local Goodwill today, where I frequently peruse. I always love reading about these trail blazers.

  27. Douglas A.B. Carlson

    Last summer when I was visiting my oldest friend John Williams in Takoma Park , Maryland, (actually he is 5 months younger than I am!) there was a copy of Meta Givens Modern Family Cookbook (1961 Revision) on his coffee table which I read every morning while I was there.
    So when I went home to San Francisco I ordered a copy on-line and got a perfect copy with a nine DJ.
    It is obviously from the 1940s.

    • That is a great find – none of my Meta Given cookbooks have their dust jackets. Interesting to find a cookbook on the coffee table at your friend’s home – were there any cookbooks anywhere else??? just wondering! – thanks for writing and sharing – Sandy

  28. Pingback: False Frugality | Frugal Hausfrau

  29. About 10 years ago I was in Florida caring for my mother. We always went “thrifting” and I chanced upon Meta Givens’ 2 volume Encyclopedia of Cooking. I offered a dollar or two but was convinced to lay down a bit more being assured of the quality of this set. I ended up using it to cook the kinds of dishes my mother would cook for our large family and just now begged my brother to bring the set back to me in nyc but he’s loaded down with waders and other fishing gear.

    • Oh Bess, I hope your brother brings the books to you – but I know from long experience that people who don’t use or collect cookbooks have no interest in them. let me know if you are able to retrieve the set – if not, get back to me – I have several of the Meta Givens books & will check to see if I have a spare set. So many people have written to me about their experiences with Meta Given’s books–it has been quite a journey learning about her. – Sandy

  30. Hello, I would like to tell you what I know about Meta Given. In the late 1930’s , during the depression, my grandfather lost his job while in Chicago with a family of 2 boys and two girls. Meta was a wonderful Christian woman at their congregation (church of Christ). She allowed them to move into her 2 car garage. They lived there for a year to two years. My grandfather built a wood floor from scrap wood in their neighborhood ( they tore down old buildings for the good wood). It probably didn’t meet code but the city let them stay since it had a floor. Meta ran a test kitchen for food and other products. In fact she would bring my father clothes and ask that he wear them so she could test laundry soap on the clothes. Every week she would bring dad new clothes and take his dirty clothes to wash. My father was about 8 at this time. This lasted for about 6 months according to my father and aunt. Another child, a girl, from church got to do the same thing. She also employed a young lady from church in her test kitchen. When they were done with a photo shoot or a test in the kitchen she often provided food for my grandfather’s family. My aunt also tells me Meta wrote a column for a time for the Tribune under the name Mary Meade. She wasn’t the only one to do so, but she knew she did it for a time. Meta lived with her mother in Chicago, and my aunt remembers her nephew being there as well. I just thought you and your readers would like to know what a wonderful caring woman she was. If you have questions my aunt and father are still living.

    • Hi Cyndy – I don’t suppose you would contact me personally, I would love to talk to you more on this information. My name is Danette Mondou, I am very interested in Meta Given and this story is very interesting. My e-mail is Please fell free to leave me an e-mail and I will send you my contact information. Really wonderful story.

    • I thought I had responded to this, Cyndy, but can’t find that email. From everything I have learned about Meta Given, she was an extraordinary woman and a true Christian spirit. Thank you for sharing this story. I have enjoyed learning about Meta Given. – Sandy

    • would you give me permission to copy the above story and add it to my previous article about Meta Given? This story is so warm and kind – Meta appears to have been the kind of person to help others in any way she could. I would love to go back to my original article about her and add your story to it. May I? – Sandy@sandychatter

  31. Sandy,
    Several moves and purging of household items resulted in whittling down a large cookbook collection. And Meta Givens Encylcopedia of Modern Cooking went with the rest. Now, my daughter wants the Cherry Upside- down Pudding Cake that her grandmother used to make for her from that book. Can you help us with the recipe, please?

  32. Sandy, can you help me solve a small mystery? I am trying to locate a pecan pie recipe. Mom made great pecan pies and there’s one in the 64 Modern Family cookbook which I have. Page 398, recipe 680. SUPPOSEDLY she used a recipe from the Modern Family cookbook as a basis but she said the only change she made was to add a little more flour. But the recipe in my copy looks different from my moms recipe in several significant ways. It adds lemon juice, where my mom’s does not, to name one.

    I wonder if there is a different pecan recipe in another version of the cookbook. Would you check for me?


    • Warren, you have piqued my curiosity – will get back to you after I go make a search. – Sandy

      • The following pecan pie recipe is on age 975 of the Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking, I believe this is a two volume set. The title is Pecan Pie-cold filling method:
        Pastry for one 9-inch single crust pie p.928
        1 cup white corn syrup
        1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
        1/2 tsp salt
        1 cup vanilla
        2 tsp lemon juice,
        3 eggs slightly beaten
        1 cup small pecans or large meats broken.
        Adjust rack 4 or 5 inches above bottom of oven. start oven 10 minutes before baking set to moderatly hot (425) oven
        Make pastry Sandy’s cooknote- or buy a pastry shell at the supermarket) roll out and line a 9″ pastry pan, fitting well into pans. trim 12″ inch from edge with scissors, turn overhang under or fold it even wit pan. flute or imprint with tines of fork. do not prick. combine next 6 ingredients and stir well until blended. then stir in nuts. pour into pastry lined pan. bake 10 minutes, then reduce heat to moderately low (325) and bake 35 o 40 m minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and filling is set. remove to cake rack to cool until just lukewarm. serve plain or with whipped cream. 6 to 8 servings. next is a recipe for a hot filling but I thought I had lost everything midway into this message so now I will take a break. write to me Asap if one of the above is what you are looking for. –regards, Sandy

    • ok, Warren – here goes: first, I didn’t find the pecan pie as #690 in my (thick) Meta Given Modern Family cookbook – I DID find #673 Nut Pie – which under the ingredients offers half a cup of your choice, pecan, hickory nuts, walnuts, etc to make Nut Pie:
      1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed,
      6 TBSP flour
      2 cups milk, scalded
      2 TBSP butter
      1/2 tsp salt
      2 eggs, separated,
      1/2 tsp vanilla
      1/2 cup nutmeats (listed above)
      1/4 cup granulated sugar
      pinch of salt
      Mix together brown sugar and flour; add scaled milk, butter and salt. bring to a boil and cook slowly over direct heat 5 minutes longer, stirring constantly, remove from heat and slowly stir into the well beaten egg yolks, Return to pan and cook 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly, add vanilla and stir well; then add nuts and stir enough t distribute. cool. turn into well cooled baked shell. Beat egg whites until stiff, then beat in sugar and salt. Pipe over surface of pie filling or spread until it touches the sides of pie filling. bake in a moderate 350 degree oven 12 o 15 minutes or until meringue is lightly toasted. cool before serving.
      (Sandy’s cooknote: Warren, I hope this is the recipe but I have NEVER heard of a pecan pie with a meringue–I hope I typed this accurately – I am typing and looking down at the book on my lap to get the next line. Will type another recipe I found in the Meta Given Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking.

  33. Warren, I noticed that the first recipe I typed DOES contain lemon juice and flour. -I hope it is the recipe you are looking for! let me know! – Sandy

  34. Thanks for checking, Sandy. I didn’t see this one originally in my book, but its there, 673, just like you said. It also is not much like my mom’s. There’s nno meringue in hers either.

    Also, you replied with 690 but I said 680. Since you searched, you probably looked at 680 anyway or made a typo.

    I’ll share mom’s so you have some idea what I was looking for. She got it from her mother, and only added a little more flour, so I expected to see a recipe like this one, but with no flour or less flour.

    3 eggs
    1 c (light) brown sugar
    1/3 tsp. salt
    1/3 cup butter, melted (or margarine)
    1 c white corn syrup
    1 c pecan halves
    2-3 tsp. flour (mix w/ brown sugar)
    deep dish pie crust.

    Beat together with rotary beater or low electric: eggs, brown sugar, salt, melted butter, corn syrup. Mix in pecan halves by hand. Pour into pie crusts. Bake 40-50 minutes at 375 or until set and pastry nicely browned. Cool and serve.

    Since you have the 42 and 53, and I have the 64, it means this recipe either didn’t come from Mrs. Given, or it was just modified a lot from the 680 recipe. Any other editions of the cookbook would have been too recent.

    Since you don’t have the 680 pecan pie, I’ll type it in for you. I guess my mom’s/grandma’s recipe could have been a simplification of this one.

    Pastry for 9-inch single crust
    1 cup white corn syrup
    1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    2 teaspoons lemon juice
    3 eggs, slightly beaten
    1 cup small pecans or large meats broken

    Adjust rack 4 or 5 inches above bottom of oven. Start oven 10 minutes before baking: set to moderately hot (425). Make pastry. Roll out and line 9-inch pie pan, fitting well into angles. Trim 1/2-inch from edge with scissors, turn overhang under so fold is even with pan rim. Flute or imprint with tines of fork. Do not prick. Combine the next 6 ingredients and stir until well blended, then stir in nuts. Pour into pastry-lined pan. Bake 10 minutes, then reduce heat to moderately slow (325) and bake 35 to 40 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and filling is set. Remove to cake rack to cool until just lukewarm. Serve plain or with whipped cream. 6 to 8 servings,


  35. Huh, actually I just notice that your cold-filled recipe and 680 are probably the same thing.

  36. Thanks for your response(s) Warren – after I sent those 3 I came across one that has a cup of corn syrup and I THINK the most popular pecan pie recipe of the 50s or 60s had the addition of corn syrup. (been thinking I should make one after all this! but I did a big grocery shopping yesterday and don’t feel like dealing with another trip right now. Also, when I dug out the Meta Given cookbooks (and I think I am still missing one), I realized that the second layer of books in this one big bookcase…have been exposed to the elements–hard to explain – I have a library that my BF Bob built for me in 2010–I think he knew his days were numbered–and we were fitting all the bookcases from my former address into this library that is half of the garage – the other half has my car in it–well, the ONLY place this one big bookcase fit into fits into the other half of the garage but sideways–so that the books in the first rows face me when I am looking at cookbooks – well that worked fine since 2010 because we haven’t had a LOT of rain since then–just this winter–so I am digging out the second row of each shelf, dusting them off and packing into boxes. hope this makes sense. most of my cookbooks are actually inside the house–in all 3 bedrooms and the living room–but those books in the one bookcase were overflow. I have been giving some of my church & club cookbooks away to a penpal in New York. I’d rather give them way than see them get ruined. oh, and I almost forgot – my FIRST Met Given cookbook was a book club cookbook that my mother received but refuse to pay for, said she didn’t order it – so I made it mine and thar would have been mid 50s – I used it for cookie recipes–and it WAS a Met Given – I am still trying to find it (I have about 10,000 cookbooks, give or take a few hundred. Thanks for the recipes, warren – I want to make the one with a cup of corn syrup – I bought a big bottle of corn syrup a few months ago.
    regards, Sandy

  37. I0,000 cookbooks…. awe…. I have a lot of cookbooks, but its a mere 2 big bookshelves worth. Perhaps 500 books. I gave away a lot, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never owned more than 1000 or so. And when people look at me a little crazy and ask me why I have 2 bookshelves worth of cookbooks, I tell them its because I don’t have a third bookshelf.

    I just spent a bit looking through my books for pecan pie recipes. Most of them are not similar to mom’s and don’t seem like they would be very good. It explains why I’ve met so many people who say they didn’t like pecan pie until they tasted mine. Then I found the one in “The New Best Recipe” from America’s Test Kitchen. It’s actually quite similar to mom’s, the closest I found in my books. So I have confidence that mom’s is a good recipe. Sometimes it needs to cook a little longer to set properly, in case you try it.

    Anyway, I’m also going to make some pies, but not real soon. I think I might do a 3-way taste test at the next big holiday, The Given recipe, mom’s, and the Test Kitchen one. Never hurts to know the best pecan pie recipe out there. Modern science will thank me later.


  38. Thanks for writing, Warren – do you feel like copying that last pecan pie recipe that you found was similar to your mother’s? I’d like to have it. I feel a pie baking looming in my horizon….. I made a favorite chocolate chip cookie today; we had rain all day, perfect for baking. I am going to try another cookie recipe tomorrow – I bought geometric cookie stamps from King Arthur *(or just plain Arthur?) flour recently but haven’t tried them out yet. this rainy weather is perfect for baking. Thanks much–fyi – whenever someone says they have a lot of cookbooks, at least fifty, I have to smile.

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