This object evokes memories and emotions from my childhood because when I see the old cookbook I think of how the families in the 1800’s cooked their food and how I used to bake with my mother because I wanted to know how to make shortcake (my favorite) when I was younger. So seeing any cookbook makes me think about the purpose and then I remember how I used to use a cookbook to make myself shortcake. I also think of how there have to be many other people who can relate to my experiences and how this cookbook isn’t just a staple of home to me today, but to other people now and in the past.
Cookbooks in 1833 were very different than they are today. Within the first few pages there were diagrams on how to cut up an animal to use for food. Also the recipes were drastically different. There was a section on pies but none were what we know as pie today. One recipe was for a calf’s head pie. But there were some similarities in the recipes such as pancakes and other delicious things to eat. They also called most desserts pudding. There were recipes for cakes and other things of the sort under the pudding category. This shows us how language has also evolved over the years. We’ve americanized the english language since we now call it dessert but in England they still call dessert pudding.
The book was small, bout as long as my my hand, roughly six to seven inches, and just slightly bigger than one fingers width of pages. The pages were brown from old age and very dry with various stains on them, probably from having the book out while cooking or preparing a meal. The covers looked to be very dry leather, a little lighter than the color of coffee. On the spine was the title of “Domestic Cookery” in all caps. The “E” in domestic was missing due to the old age of the book. The spine also had three different sections below the title with three of the same floral patterns and one section above the title with the same pattern. The back cover had fallen off years ago but was then taped back on using what appeared to be scotch tape but looked to be very old as well.
The full title of the book is “The Experienced American Housekeeper or Domestic Cookery — Formed on Principals of Economy for the Use of Private Families.” The first few pages are dedicated to diagrams of different animals and how to carve them and get the different cuts of meat to use in the recipes. After the diagrams comes “Observations for the Use of the Mistress of the Family” which basically is just stating a woman’s duties of the house and how to do them. This may be degrading to women by today’s standards, and I agree that it is, however for that time period the authors were somewhat respectful in this by stating that a woman should not only be confined to the house and only the duties inside as it was in the past.
This cookbook that was published in 1833 is a very common object found in the homes of then and now. The only differences between past and present cookbooks are the methods of cooking, ingredients and some of the actual recipes, which makes them seem like a totally different thing. However, for the time period the cookbook was just as much a staple of life at home as it is today, maybe even more so. With advancements in technology and copious amounts of information available at our fingertips at any second, the cookbook as we know it may become obsolete.
Part five: While researching other cookbooks from the 1800’s, I came across a cookbook that was somewhat similar yet different to the one that I had studied in special collections. It was entitled “The Captain’s Lady Cookbook – a Personal Journal.” This had a similar preface to the “Domestic Cookery” book, but there was more additional information such as family records and this particular woman’s favorite poem. This added a more personal touch than what we can assume is a mass produced cookbook in the “Domestic Cookery.” It seems that the cookbook in special collections was not too common in that it was mass produced for its time. Other cookbooks in this time period were more collections of recipes that were gathered by the family, particularly the women of the family.
Part six: In regards to contemporary cookbooks, the only similarity that the special collections book has is that it is a cookbook. The majority of the recipes were different and unused in today’s world. There is rarely a preface to cookbooks anymore and if there is it might be some type of quote or maybe even a joke that people could find funny. I know that on the cover of my mother’s cookbook, which is titled “Surefire Recipes,” there’s a cartoon of an old grumpy lady thats burning the meal while the smoke alarm goes off. There were no jokes made like this back then and there are rarely any prayers at the beginning of cookbooks today.
The recipes and even the ingredients are shockingly different. There were ways to prepare every single part of the animal that you had to butcher yourself, such as calf’s head pie and boars head pie. All of the recipes that were listed in the book, except for a few simple ones, are no longer used today. Some of the recipes that the books have in common are something as simple as pancakes and some desserts like cakes and pudding.
As someone who loves looking at and studying older objects, this simple little cookbook was so fascinating to me. I want to learn more through this object and others like it. One thing I can theorize about home then and now is that we as a society have become wasteful in our cooking processes. This is because when people cooked in the 1800’s, they used every single part of the animal. This is a pretty recent thing too since my great aunt still eats the heart, liver, and occasionally a tongue if my dad is successful when he goes hunting. This can only be said for when my father goes hunting since we butcher and use the majority of the animal just like people used to do. Nowadays people normally go and get food thats been pre-made and rapped up in plastic packaging with preservatives. This is negative thing since we will throw away the excess plastic wrapping and that will eventually destroy the environment around us. The same goes with any vegetables that come in packaging. The people of the 1800’s were raising their own livestock and possibly had their own gardens to grow other vegetables, herbs, and spices. This produced little to no waste and whatever they didn’t use was easily disposed of, either by being eaton by carnivorous animals or decomposing naturally.
Other things that can be investigated are more background on who wrote the book, if any of the recipes are good, and what the ingredients are that have gone out of style and how they differ from what we use today. I think it would be very interesting to look into that and actually attempt to make one of the recipes from that book and compare it to something similar from today’s cookbooks.