Interested in trying terrapin? A handwritten recipe from the mid-1800s on how to stew those adorable aquatic turtles might just do the trick.
“Remember to remove the toe nails,” reads the weathered, barely legible recipe card.
The staff at the University of Iowa Libraries scanned and uploaded this recipe, along with thousands of others, from handwritten American and European cookbooks from the 1600s to the 1960s.
This is the latest effort by the University of Iowa Libraries to transcribe history through the power of the internet, and it’s a rare opportunity for both serious historians and food lovers alike to get a taste of bygone times.
My name is Kat, and I'm waaayyy hooked on vintage cookbooks.
Pamphlets, too. Spiral or comb-bound community or church cookbooks are instant twitterpation. It's not just visual kitsch for me; chances are that if you come to my home for a party or a meal, I'll serve you at least one dish from a recipe published well before either one of us was old enough to wield a box grater.
What's the appeal? For one - the recipes WORK. They have to. If it's from a product pamphlet (like the bacon meatloaf above, published in an Armour and Company 1925 pamphlet "Slices of Real Flavor"), it's likely been through endless testing to ensure that the ingredient is being touted to its best advantage. In a community cookbook, Mrs. Husband's Name isn't going to submit anything other than her show-off recipe. People would talk!
But besides the efficacy of the recipes, they're a wonderful window into a place and a time gone by - before the Food Network, celebrity chefs, Paula Deen's Butt Rub and the EVOO-ification of ingredients. This is how our families fed themselves at home and I'm going to put my faith in the wisdom of the ages on occasion - even if they're trying to murder me with bacon.
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What once was old, is new again - especially around the holidays. ‘Tis the season to disregard the glossy food magazines and opt for the comb-bound Junior League cookbooks and stained index cards to recreate Aunt Myrtle's sweet potato casserole circa 1954.
As John T. Edge, says:
Along with penning numerous food-centric books, John T. writes a monthly column, “United Tastes,” for the New York Times, is a contributing editor at Garden & Gun magazine and a columnist for the Oxford American. He was also a contributing editor at Gourmet before the beloved publication folded in October 2009.
He has been nominated for five James Beard Foundation Awards, and in 2009, was inducted into Beard's "Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America." John T. is also director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, an organization that documents, studies and celebrates the soul of Southern food - old and new.
Five Retrograde Holiday Dishes: John T. Edge
On tonight's Mad Men episode, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce hosted a last-second holiday...okay, Christmas fete, complete with chafing dishes of unspecified "deli" and "Chinese" delights. (Not to mention a bazillion gallons of Stoli vodka) We perused our vintage holiday cookbooks and suspect these dishes might have made it onto the menu.
From 'A Treasury of Holiday Ideas from Near and Far', distributed by the New York State Electrical and Gas Corporation: