(Author’s note: note that the word “recipe” comes from the word “receipt”, which you will see used in early books).
Our fascination with cookbooks is practically limitless. Celebrity chefs make millions from their beautifully illustrated cookbooks, many of which are never really used for more than fantasy. And basic classics like Better houses and gardens, Betty Crocker or Pillsbury will always sell. But before the 19th century, if a young woman or maid was not taught culinary skills while growing up, she faced a difficult period of trial and error when she was forced to work with a new husband and a growing family. If he could read, he might find some stained and worn pages to refer to, but that was it.
The first cookbooks were only for the wealthy (especially royalty) and most of the castle’s kitchen staff could not read. Of course, the first cookbooks proved to be a bit overwhelming for the average farmer’s wife, as Cury form (14th century) by the master cooks of King Richard II of England. It seems the portions were a bit overwhelming and a meal might require spending an entire year’s food budget for the average peasant. In Germany and England, many of the books were written by women, who saw what was needed in households with fewer or no servants, and understood what made it possible to simplify dishes with less expensive ingredients.
So for bona fide basic cookbooks, here are a few that stand out, many of which are still out today:
By hannah glasse The art of cooking made simple and easy (1747) was the best-selling English cookbook for more than a century and had a great influence on early American cooking; even Martha Washington had a copy in her Mount Vernon kitchen;
Martha Bradley, in 1756 wrote The British Housewife taking recipes from previous books but modifying them in your own personal style;
Fifteen-cent dinners for working men’s families It was published in New York in the late 1870s, and at the same time similar books could be found all over Europe, a little more practical for the average worker. Presumably, the poor man’s creative ways of preparing potatoes and turnips gave way to fresh meats and vegetables (boxed sausages and macaroni and cheese had yet to appear);
Amelia simmons American kitchen (1796) one of the first cookbooks printed in America, had a significant impact on American settlers after the Revolutionary War;
Mary randolph Virginia’s housewife (1824) still considered one of the best for authentic southern cuisine, includes recipes for grilled pork, okra soup, and many other traditional southern recipes (his brother was married to the daughter of the first gastronomic president Thomas Jefferson, which did no harm);
Lydia Marie Child’s The frugal housewife (1829), although small in volume, was popular with pioneers and light travelers, as it emphasized affordable and available food (after all, there were no supermarkets on the border);
Eliza leslie Cooking Instructions, In its various branches (1837) a multi-volume author in the 19th century, her culinary fame began in 1828 with the publication of Seventy-five receipts for cakes, cakes, and sweets, a true bible for lovers of food with sweets; The inspiration came largely from the cooking school of Mrs. Goodfellow, a famous Philadelphia baker;
The Confederation Receipt Book: A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, adapted during the Civil War (1863) when naval blockades prevented much food from reaching the south, where growing cotton and tobacco was much more common than food;
By Charles Ranhofer The epicurean (1894) For more than a century, Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City was the epitome of late Victorian dining, hosting dinners for presidents like Ulysses S. Grant and writers like Charles Dickens; Known for their unique and ornate presentations, the most elaborate dishes were prepared under the masterful gaze of Chef Charles Ranhofer; This huge, highly illustrated tome contains mostly classic French recipes;
Fannie Merritt Farmer’s Boston Cookery School Cookbook (1896), and thanks to it we have detailed step-by-step instructions in cookbooks that use standardized measurements for ingredients;
Rufus Estes’ Good things to eat (1911) his cookbook was preceded by the first by an African American, namely that of Robert Roberts The directory of the servant of the house of 1827, which included recipes from the wealthy New England families he was used to working for;
Irma Rombauer’s Joy of cooking (1931) Among the best-selling cookbooks in American publishing history, the Joy of cooking It was originally self-published by Ms. Rombaue, keeping her busy after her husband’s death, but with its unexpected initial success, she signed a contract with a publisher;
Reference books and chefs who have made a significant contribution in the last sixty or seventy years include:
Ruth Graves Wakefield, a restaurant owner and creator of the original Toll House cookie, was a popular cookbook writer in the 1930s;
Although it is most famous for its marijuana brownies, Alice B. Toklas She was actually an accomplished cook, and her mid-20th century cookbook made a great impression on the cooks of the future; Julia Child’s cookbooks changed America’s most conservative basic kitchen;
One of the best cookbooks of all time, Georges Auguste Escoffier, revered French chef and considered the father of good French cuisine, published The culinary guide, in the early years of the 20th century;
So there you have it. A short walk through time with those pioneers who put the art of cooking on the map and still give foodies goose bumps.