You could probably build a timeline of history and a woman’s evolution in the  household through cookbooks.  Early cookbooks not only addressed the kitchen but other housekeeping chores. Well, times have certainly changed and it is fun to see how the images have too.   Here are some of my favorites that are in the family and borrowed from The Timrod Library.


“Mrs. Beeton’s Everyday Cookery”, a British bible of domestication, is well known in the UK.   First published in 1861, my “New Edition” (possibly 1890s) is in poor shape and has been repaired with old tape probably in the 1960s.  Given to me by my grandmother’s sister, it is my oldest and favorite but probably least used cookbook. In addition to recipes (arranged by main ingredient alphabetically), budgets and menus, there is household cleaning and management advice.  Directions for “Cleaning of the Drawing Room” include “remove all furniture to the center of the room… cover all with the dusting-sheets.  Strew the carpet with well-washed tea-leaves, and sweep… hen clean (feather duster?) the grate, hearth, looking-glasses…replace the pictures, washing the frames with gin..”  What a waste of gin!

Not sure if I would really like a hare entree presented as it is in this plate!


This 1887 edition of “Miss Parloa’s Kitchen Companion” and this 1913 copy of “Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners” have illustrations and text clearly designating the kitchen as the woman’s responsibility.  The June recipe chapter in “Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners”  shows a wedding scene and above the happy couple is the quote “Nothing lovelier can be found in woman then to study house good.”


“The Williamsburg Art of Cookery or Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion” was originally published in 1938 by Colonial Williamsburg and are Early American recipes.  Some of the recommendations such as selecting a three to five year old ham are a little puzzling.  What would the FDA think?  It is filled with Colonial images, language and foods also familiar in the Carolinas:


This 1937 “The Alice Bradley Menu Cookbook” (“By the Principal of Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery, Inc.”) reflects wartime concerns:


Even today these are still good suggestions:


In 1950 The Junior Service League of Charleston published “Charleston Receipts”.  A later “Charleston Receipts Repeats” followed due to the great success of the earlier version:


The choice to continue using the old name for recipes (receipts) was noted in the opening:


Mom’s “Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cook Book” was given to her as a new bride and new resident in America in 1964. Being a good cook would surely guarantee marital bliss!


My first cookbook was purchased so that I could work on my first Girl Scout badge – cooking!  Go figure.  This book was $1.00!


Tacos and Granola!  Today’s food!  This is a book I gave my daughter that as a child she scrawled her name inside.  The images now depict girls AND boys cooking:


So next time you’re in an antiques store or even a library with a good vintage collection, page through a couple of old cookbooks.  The nostalgia is sure to bring a smile to your face !

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