Because I'm a single, novice cook I usually cook from recipes from 'this decade' given that they're the best adapted to my circumstances/ingredients/nutritional needs.
But given my love of literature, I adore reading vintage cookbooks, and always have my lit critic's 'hat' on when I'm perusing them.
I love observing how 19th century cookbooks:
-have few very specific directions because they assume people know how to cook
-provide instructions about creating zillion-course dinner parties with huge amounts made to feed much larger households
-the very rich foods during a time when people burned more calories
-insanely long vegetable cooking times
-menus for the sick, in an era where often people convalesced at home not in hospitals
-the assumption in many cookbooks that people had servants
-and the different cooking methods (like over open flames) and ingredients we don't use regularly now, like turtle, pheasant and so forth
With 1950s cookbooks
-the unselfconscious use of politically incorrect 'ethnic' terms like 'Chicken Hawaiian' and 'Oriental Beef'
-the assumption the reader was female
-a refreshing lack of concern for childhood calories--lots of rich 'afterschool' treats
-less processed foods, but when they are used, no apologetic attitude about using them
-great kitschy names and food art, like hamburger buns with olives for eyes and ketchup for a smile
-often smaller meat portions
-more things 'done' to vegetables with sauces
-lots of references to food that will 'please your man' in some cookbooks ;)
So, for those of you more experienced cooks that have used cookbooks spanning generations--how are cookbooks from various era of history different than cookbooks today?