Would you like to know what the Czech cuisine looked like in the 50s – 80s? What was the typical way of cooking, what was on the table in the Czech households before the country opened up to the western influences? And would you like to cook a retro meal yourself? You’re in luck because we bring you some of the most famous Czech retro cookbooks!
Czech Retro Cookbooks – Introduction
Check out the most famous Czech cookbooks from the times before the Velvet Revolution, they are proper retro but still very useful! They differ from modern cookbooks and food blogs especially in the introduction to a recipe. Either there is none or it’s just short and practical. It wasn’t common to write a whole story before the recipe. What might surprise you is that some of the retro cookbooks have an introduction about healthy eating habits and also very practical overview of measuring units and other useful things like different ways of setting the table for different occasions or folding the napkins.
A fact of interest – the Czech word for “recipe” is recept, plural recepty. However, the older cookbooks often use the word předpis or předpisy in plural
Where to get these Czech Retro Cookbooks? You won’t usually find them in normal bookstores but rather in secondhand bookshops (in Czech antikvariát). They are usually very cheap, you can easily get a good old cookbook for under 100 CZK (less than USD). If you’re not in Czech Republic that might be a bit of a challenge because secondhand bookshops don’t always have an e-shop and even if they do, you can hardly ever choose an international shipping. So buying retro cookbooks might have to stay on your checklist of to do on your stay in Czechia.
The doctor’s advice is to eat regularly, on time, quietly, in good mood and a nice ambient, to focus on ingesting the food.
– Such advices are commonly found in the introduction to the older Czech cookbooks.
And remember to also browse more articles about the Czech Gastronomy!
Domácí kuchařka (Home cookbook) by Magdalena Dobromila Rettigová
We start with a cookbook that’s rather vintage than retro but it just has to be mentioned. Rettigová is the only cookbook author being taught in Czech schools. Just imagine, a female author in the first half of the 19th century, writing about cooking, a strictly female thing back then and becoming widely famous for her work.
Her cookbook is outdated in some ways because baby pigeons are not a thing to eat anymore but more than a few recipes are worth trying. Moreover, you get a glimpse at the cuisine of that time period and the author also shows typical table setting for different social occasions.
The book also features other literary work by Rettigová which is not very-well known and artwork by her husband.
What is especially interesting is the glossary explaining many period names of food and dishes, often adding the German name.
Desatero dobré hospodyně (Ten rules of a good housewife, 1938)
This book is somewhere between vintage and retro. It contains traditional recipes with exact measures and ones that, unlike those of Rettigová, can be easily made today.
Nová domácí kuchařka (New home cookbook) by J. Břízová and M. Klimentová
One of those thick books full of good old recipes. The introductions gives you many useful tips regarding measuring, portions and how to budget your cooking.
The number of recipes is impressive. There are all the soups one might remember from the Czech school cafeterias, all the recipes your grandma used to prepare, a huge amount of Christmas pastry recipes and cakes and also many basic things like sauces or salads.
Vaříme zdravě, chutně a hospodárně (Cooking in a healthy, tasty and economical way, 1983)
Just like the previous cookbook this one offers a complex cooking guidelines reaching from measuring to traditional recipes. It is a truly great book where you will find all the typical Czech savory dishes like meat or dumplings (knedlíky) as well as Christmas cookies.
As is typical for the retro cookbooks of this era (there are actually earlier editions of this book), there are a lot of tips on healthy cooking and eating and also on how to cook economically.
Dobrou chuť v roce 1980 (Bon apetit in 1980)
Do you often feel like you don’t know what to cook? Then you’ll love this cookbook, at least if you’re a working woman in socialist Czechoslovakia in 1980.
This book is actually a diary with 1 – 2 recipes a day. You get not only an idea of the 80s cuisine but maybe also an inspiration for tonight’s dinner.
Some of the recipes are quite common in today’s cuisine, others are the product of leftovers many families have at home (Czechs are really good at not wasting food). All in all, it’s actually a very useful book!
Výživa a stravování dětí předškolního věku / Nutrition and alimentation of pre-school children
An extremely useful cookbook even nowadays! It has actually two parts, the first in a book about the alimentation of children, the properties of different foods but also about the rules of hygiene in preschool cafeterias and suggestions of daily menus.
The second part is a (very thick) volume of sheets, one sheet for each recipe ranging from simple black tea with lemon to complex Czech recipes. One side of the sheet is the recipe, the other one gives you information like caloric value and amount of ingredients for different amounts of children.
Konzervace a ukládání potravin v domácnosti (Preservation and Storing Food In Your Home, 1982)
This awesome book from the 1980s will take you through one of the biggest Czech hobbies – food preservation and canning. Learn how to preserve almost anything in several different ways. There are instructions for freezing with pre-cooking, canning and processing fruit, vegetables and meat. And of course, with recipes for pickles.
Vaříme po práci rychle a dobře (Cooking quick and well after work, 1956)
The 1950s were probably the darkest era of the communism in Czechoslovakia. People were expected to work hard, get very little rest or family time and to not complain. The diet was often based on canned food. This book partially refers to food in cans, however, there are also very clever recipes and instructions on how to utilize food leftovers. Czechs are actually very good at not wasting food and even today there are many recipes from leftovers that can make for a tasty dish.
Receptury teplých a míšených nápojů (Recipes for hot and mixed drinks, 1982)
Even though the socialist era was all about preventing any contact of regular people with the “imperialist” world, things did slip through the iron curtain and so in this book of cocktails there are not just local drinks but also the western ones.
You might ask how people in that time period were supposed to get ingredients which were usually not available in the eastern block – some of them actually were available and those which weren’t might have been available in stores called Tuzex where people could get them for a special privileged currency called “bon” (plural “bony”).
Naše kuchařka (Our Cookbook, 1959)
You know how sometimes you read a foreign cuisine recipe and can’t quite understand how to make something, follow one particular step? There is one reason why this book is so great – it includes photos of the steps of some of the more complicated recipes.
And so you can learn how to clean the beef and make proper meat rolls Czech way as well as other dishes. And you’ll see it on photos made in the 1950s!
Co chutná v Evropě (What people in Europe like to eat, 1989)
As the communism in Czechoslovakia was reaching its end it was harder and harder for the regime to keep not only people from travelling but also the “western” things out. This book was edited just before the Velvet Revolution and it contains many recipes from all over Europe – main courses, salads, dressings…and so you can learn how the British used to prepare sea fish, the Greeks mousaka or the Spanish their famous paella in the 80s.
Sešity domácího hospodaření – sváteční pečivo (Notebooks of Homekeeping – Festive Pastries, 1987)
There were several magazine-like series on Homekeeping and they were actually really good! If you get your hands on some, even if they’re not about cooking, don’t let them go because they can give you quite a good insight on what the Czechoslovak households used to look like and how they functioned back then. This edition is full of sweet pastry recipes, especially Christmas cookies.
Our recipes (Christmas cookies and other) are also traditional so even if you don’t get a copy of this notebook, you can always choose from the recipes we publish.
Cukrářské speciality (Confectioner’s Specialities, 1968)
Sweet food is a huge deal in the Czech Republic and there are many retro cookbooks which focus on pastry, cakes and cookies. This book contains traditional recipes including recipes for different types of dough.
There are cakes, cookies, fruit compotes, puddings, sweet drinks and even ice-creams.
Pochoutky z brambor (Potato delicacies, 1982)
This cookbook is exactly what it seems – a potato cookbook. Potatoes play an important role in the traditional Czech diet so there are more than a few potato recipes.
How did you like our overview of Czech retro cookbooks? Are there any you would add to the list?