Historic American Church and Social Cookbooks

Click here to see a new cookbook that includes pages from fourteen classic American cookbooks of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, annotated and with updated recipes  

There was one place in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America where women were indisputably in charge and enjoyed free range of expression—the kitchen. For them, the home and the kitchen at its center were sources of power. One only has to read the cookbooks of the era to see this.

More than that, these women understood that homemaking and cooking could be used to make a moral statement in an age that was preoccupied with morality. The Foreword to Favorite Recipes (1923) states that cooking is “a very necessary incidental in the great work of building real character and life. . . . In our pursuit of great truths, of spiritual dynamic, and of nobler service to our fellow-men, we are not forgetful of those things which give us finer social qualities and breadth of intellectual grasp.”

As to “breadth of intellectual grasp,” these women were erudite. The books are peppered with quotes from the classics, Shakespeare, and contemporaries such as Ruskin. The writing is always beautiful; there is poetry in these pages.

The pages reproduced herein may be yellowed, foxed, stained with gravy, and marked with pencilled notes; the authors and their social groups long gone; the dishes quaint (but so intriguing); and the measures and directions sometimes unintelligible; but they give us an invaluable look into American kitchens and domestic life of a century and more ago.

Even if you do not cook, we hope you will find these pages as fascinating and entertaining as we do. We welcome your comments and suggestions for future volumes, and if you have a treasured antique cookbook that you would like to have reproduced in a future volume, please send it to us. We will guard it with our lives, return it in perfect condition, and give you a well-deserved credit. E-mail the editors at psampersand@yahoo.com.

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