And Now a Word from the Mystery Chef

February 25, 2016

IMG_0034And now for this curious archive offering: a cookbook produced and distributed by “your local gas company” in 1936. There are so many for sale online, from every corner of the Eastern Seaboard,  that I think this was probably widely syndicated. My copy is from Camden Gas.

It’s written by “the mystery chef,” who had a twice-weekly recipe radio show in Philadelphia.

He also had a pretty nice house:


He offered recipes (if somewhat suspicious ones), from all over the world:




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  • Lynne says:

    Drats, you’d like to think cool, vintage recipes, going back to tried-and-true, tradition, common sense wins the day, etc. Then he rinses the spaghetti, cooks the beef in patties, adds beef broth and, oh, canned mushrooms? We’ve come a long way I say.

  • Gretchen says:

    I’m guessing the Mystery Chef in later years was replaced by the Home Economist, who in addition to writing a similar/or the same cookbook also taught at the local gas (or electric) company offices.

  • Connie says:

    I think it’s very nice, considering the times. The world and new food was still a wonder. My BFF Martha and I still get a kick out of her Mom and the presentation of the families very first exotic food from Mexico called-a TACO! You youngsters can’t begin to comprehend this joy with all your new fangled internet accessed foods.
    I jest, kinda….but the world was different then and just appreciate this for what UTIs/was.
    Thanks Ruth!

  • Connie says:

    Corrcection-sorry, my dog has a UTI and spell check apparently had it on its mind…
    *what it is/was

  • Joy Kramer says:

    Old cookbooks are very interesting, especially to those of us who read them–but don’t cook. I do notice strange ingredients that you really wouldn’t find in a foreign cuisine in the original country. But we had to make recipes with what foods we had available. I do remember the advent of pizza and my mother’s cousin brought tacos from Texas to the country in Wisconsin, to their great delight (she had a drive-in restaurant). Just think of a time before kale. LOLOL

  • Daisy says:

    I loved the “boil for 20 minutes”….

  • Gary Gillman says:

    I think Connie is correct. Ethnic foods, for lack of a better word (mainstream American food is no less ethnic) were very new at mid-century. Except if you had an off-piste local tradition, Mennonite or New Orleans, say, or influenced by the ocean perhaps, like James Beard had in Oregon, people knew what was handed down largely. And with most people not living in large cities, that meant traditional American cooking, itself mostly derived from British sources but modified in certain ways.

    So these new Italian or Mexican, or East Indian, dishes were a revelation. These early radio shows are, with other influences, are the beginning of the modern food culture.


  • Does anyone knows the name/identity of the “mystery chef” ?

  • Michael Aptner says:

    I remember as a young boy, my mother had a cookbook from the Brooklyn Union Gas Company ! It was written by The Mystery Chef ! The picture of his home that you’ve shown is the same one I saw as a child ! The recipe for my mother’s Brownies, ( I believe came from that pamphlet)
    Although my mothers cooking was limited mostly to recipes printed there , her Brownies were the best I’ve ever tasted in my life ! The booklet has been lost over and the years !
    Now at 73 years old I’m hoping to find that recipe again ! Can you advise me where I can get a copy of the Mystery Chefs cooking Pamphlet ?

  • Alan Aptner says:

    Well, It looks Like Big Brother beat me to it! I was trying to find it to Mickey, maybe this person knows where to find one! (:
    Alan Aptner