Monday, December 19, 2011

Uncommone Genre 2: Historical Cookbooks

Marie Antoinette said "Let them eat cake!". I want to know what cake tasted like to Marie Antoinette in the 1700s. Since I definitely don't want to find cake that was made in the 1700s (ewwww), my best bet is to find a recipe from the 1700s and make it myself. So today I want to do a little research on a uncommon genre of books, historical cookbooks.

I can just do a web search for "1700s cake recipe" and get thousands of finds. If you use one of these recipes there is no guarantee it is authentic. Just because the person who posted it on the internet swears it has been in the family since the Colonial does not make it authentic. So today's post is going to focus on authentic resources that we can validate as being time period correct.

Part of the process of finding authentic books is actually being able to see the original book yourself. I do this by searching the internet for visual images of these older books. If you want to try browsing for them go to Google Books, look for cookbooks, and in the right hand side change the publish date to the desired years. Here are a few authentic resource examples.
American Cookery by Amelia Simmons (1798)
This is the first known American cookbook that used American ingredients. The book is available for purchase by several vendors but since it is not protected by copyright you can peruse digital images of the book at Michigan State University by clicking on the title.

If you would like to view 75 other cookbooks from 1798 through the late 1900s check out all of Michigan State University's project called Feeding America. There are images available all similar to American Cookery.

Early European cookbooks are harder to find because they are usually in the original language and not translated. If you are serious about finding them I thought I would at least give you a starting point. This book does not have any recipes but it lists all of the original print dates and titles of European cookbooks from that era. I recommend this only for serious culinary patrons because it is not available through Wisconsin lenders and it can be pricey.
Printed Cookbooks in Europe: 1470-1700: A Bibliography of Early Modern Culinary Literature. by Henry Notaker (2010).

Happy Cooking!

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