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The Cookbook as Document


How can cookbooks be used as historical sources?

Please come to class with a cookbook of your choice. Be prepared to discuss its utility as a historical source, drawing on your readings. You might for instance pay attention to the messages conveyed in the recipes, visuals and non-recipe prose. You might think about your cookbook as an autobiography (individual or collective). You might study it for political messages . . .


Albala, Ken, 'Cookbooks as Historical Documents', Oxford Handbook of Food History, ed. Jeffrey Pilcher (Oxford, 2012).*

Appadurai, Arjun, ‘How to Make a National Cuisine: Cookbooks in Contemporary Indian’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 30 (1988).*

Folch, Christine, ‘Fine Dining: Race in Prerevolution Cuban Cookbooks’, Latin American Research Review 43:2 (2008).*
Helstosky, Carol, ‘Recipe for the Nation: Reading Italian History through La scienza in cucina and La cucina futurista’, Food and Foodways 11 (2003).*
Scott, Nina, ‘Juana Manuela Gorriti’s Cocina Ecléctica: Recipes as Feminine Discourse’, Hispania 75:2 (1992).*
Theophano, Janet, Eat My Words: Reading Women’s Lives Through the Cookbooks They Wrote (New York, 2002), Introduction.

*Sign into the Warwick Library Catalogue to access the electronic version.

To Learn More

Bickham, Troy, “Defining Good Food: Gender and Cookery Book Illustrations in Britain,” Journal for Eighteenth Century Studies 31:3 (2008).*

Bower, Anne, ed., Recipes for Reading: Community Cookbooks, Stories, Histories (Amhurst, 1997).

Claflin, Kyri, 'Representations of Food Production and Consumption: Cookbooks as Historical Sources', The Handbook of Food Research, eds. Anne Murcott, Warren Belasco and Peter Johnson (London, 2013).

DiMeo, Michelle, and Sara Pennell, eds., Reading and Writing Recipe Books 1550-1800 (Manchester, 2013).

Floyd, Janet, and Laurel Forster, eds., The Recipe Reader (London, 2004).

Gabaccia, Donna, We Are What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans (Cambridge, 1998), esp. ‘Of Cookbooks and Culinary Roots’.

Humble, N. Culinary Pleasures: Cookbooks and the Transformation of British Food, Faber and Faber (London, 2005).

Inness, Sherrie, Kitchen Culture in America: Popular Representations of Food, Gender, and Race (Philadelphia, 2001).

Ireland, Lynne, ‘The Compiled Cookbook as Foodways Autobiography’, Western Folklore 40 (1981).*
Kirschenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara, ‘Recipes for Creating Community: The Jewish Charity Cookbook in America’, Jewish Folklore and Ethnology 9 (1987), 8–12.

Leonardi, Susan, ‘Recipes for Reading: Summer Pasta, Lobster à la Riseholme, and Key Line Pie’, PMLA 104 (1989).*
Neuhaus, Jessamyn, Manly Meals and Mom’s Home Cooking: Cookbooks and Gender in Modern America (Baltimore, 2003).

Sherman, Sandra, ‘The Whole Art and Mystery of Cooking’: What Cookbooks Taught Readers in the Eighteenth Century’, Eighteenth-Century Life 28 (2004).

Zafar, Rafia, ‘The Signifiying Dish: Autobiography and History in Two Black Women’s Cookbooks’, Feminist Studies 25 (1999).

*Sign into the Warwick Library Catalogue to access the electronic version.

A Few 'Recipe' Novels

Esquival, Laura, Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Instalments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies (1992)

Shange, Ntozake, Sassafrass, Cyprus & Indigo (New York, 1982).