Monday, December 20, 2010

Books I've Packed for the Journey, Part Deux

Sorry for the delay between posts, everyone. I had a bit of a detour to the emergency room, my daughter's second birthday party, and a visit from my parents this week, which precluded the continuation of my list of reference materials for this project.

Enough about my boring, 21st Century white lady First World life. What you want to know is... how revolting are the recipes going to get for this project?

Let me assure you, dear Readers. It will get gross.

To whit, consider the rest of my historical cooking library.

The Martha Washington Cookbook by Marie Kimball, copyright 1940. This is a transcription of the First First Lady's personal cookbook, with notes and background. Actually, the recipes in this book are straightforward and surprisingly modern (with a decidedly Classical French flavor, not surprising given the era). My favorite is "To Make Red Deer of Beef." It involves a lot of lard, which is always a good thing in my book.

Food in History by Reay Tannahill, copyright 1973. No recipes here, but detailed discussion of cookery techniques by era. Once again, there is a lot of meat on sticks.

The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker, copyright 1979. Confession time: I was obsessed with the Little House books as a girl. I BEGGED my mother to make bread from wheatberries hand-ground in a coffee grinder a la The Long Winter, shook heavy cream in Mason jars for hours to make my own butter, and wore a sunbonnet whenever I could. I keep meaning to write an article for Saveur or Gastronomica about the Little House Books as primary sources for American frontier culinary history, but then my kid slams her finger in a door or I drop a load of laundry down the basement stairs and the thought goes completely from my head. Anyway, Wilder's descriptions of the foods-- and lack thereof-- of her childhood are vivid, direct, and detailed enough that one could cook directly from her novels. This book supplements the series with cultural background information on foodstuffs of the period.

To the Queen's Taste and To the King's Taste by Lorna J. Sass, copyright 1975 & 1976. A friend lent me these two volumes. The first consists of recipes and menus from Elizabethan England and the second of recipes translated and adapted from Richard II's book of feasts. I haven't had time to really dig into these but I've already threatened my husband with "Tripe in Gingered Broth." Heh heh.

And that's it. I've done some digging around and found this quite comprehensive and drool-worthy list of historical cookbooks:

Broad hints have been dropped regarding this list and our proximity to Christmas, so I suspect that once in the New Year I'll have more reference material to share with you all.

In the meantime, I need to pick a recipe for my first actual cooking project. We're hosting a little Christmas Eve soiree and I'd love to put something historical on the hors d'oeuvre table.

Stay tuned to find out what it will be!


  1. I am not sure about tripe. But I think I will eat almost anything on a stick. ! I cannot WAIT to hear/see/taste more!

  2. Over T-giving I perused my friend Kathryn's copy of "Take 1000 eggs or more" (a 2-volume compendium of medieval English recipes; it's on that poisonpenpress list). Fascinating. Made me incredibly thankful for the culinary bounty of the Americas. Those recipes were a whole lot of entrails, almonds, and apples. Blergh.