People have been writing down their favorite recipes for as long as there’s been a method for recording the ingredients. The really old ones are often called receipts, which can be confusing to some, but it’s still just a list of instructions about how to make something to eat.
Trouble is, picking up an antique recipe can make you feel like you missed something, like ingredients, instructions, and context. That’s because in the olden times, most people did the cooking for themselves and there was an expectation of knowledge if you were venturing into the kitchen. As time and lifestyles changed, not everyone learned to cook. Today, I think that’s too bad. You don’t need to be a culinary expert to enjoy making a good meal. It’s fun to create a special dinner for someone who is special to you. Don’t be intimidated. Give it a try. The trick is to follow the directions and understand the process.
Previous generations valued cooking skills in ways we’d snicker about today but that doesn’t make the ability to combine ingredients any less useful. Here’s a fun timeline of food history in case you’ve ever wondered when a particular item made its debut.
Here’s a lovely book of Old-Fashioned Recipes you can download from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. Nifty. If that gets you jazzed then this next link will produce shivers of delight. Michigan State University has an ongoing project called Feeding America. This Historic American Cookbook Project is designed to put antique cookbooks online so they’re accessible to all. Already there are more than 75 cookbooks waiting for you nimble fingers. There are other places too, like Historic Cookbooks Online and Project Gutenberg of course, that offer numerous recipes. Most of these range in age from the mid 1800’s to the early twentieth century, but there are older receipt books out there, some as old as the Medieval Period. If more recent menu options appeal, there is the helpful Archive.org which provides many cookbooks for perusal, just fire up your PDF reader.
There’s no shortage of antique recipes to follow, should the urge take hold, and I hope it does. Try something new and different. Get the family involved and have an evening in the kitchen, cooking and experimenting. Laugh a lot. Eat something tasty. Make good memories.
Do you have a favorite antique recipe? What about a secret family dish that is passed down the generations? What have you always thought you’d like to undertake in the kitchen?