In the mid-20th century, church cookbooks from suburban parishes hadn’t had time to develop the warm patina of kitsch and nostalgia with which they’re positively coated now. Back then, these comb-bound collections were the indispensable tools of a busy household, their proceeds raising funds for community causes while their parishioner-submitted recipes taught young mothers how to feed upwards of a dozen mouths as efficiently as possible.
Page through enough church cookbooks and you’ll start to notice a pattern—a set of criteria that each quality collection must meet for maximum delight. What follows is a list of attributes that you’ll find in any church cookbook worth its salt. Look for these qualities in any 75-cent volume you encounter at the thrift shop to ensure you’ve found something truly special.