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The Cookbook as Document

Please come to class prepared to talk about one historical observation you can make about a specific cookbook, drawing also on the ideas from the studies in the 'scholarship on cookbooks' section. What can you learn from the recipes, or from any illustrations, or from the author's introduction? Do you detect any political, moral or cultural messages? Has it been produced to support a particular cause? What can you learn from the ingredients it employs? In what ways does it reflect the historical moment when it was written?
You can use a cookbook that you own, or you can study one of the many historical cookbooks available online from the extensive list of websites given below.
Questions to Consider While Reading

How can cookbooks be used as historical sources?



Please read ONE entire cookbook--not a single, isolated recipe that you found online--and one item from the 'scholarship on cookbooks' section below.

Online Cookery Books

Cookbook Digital Archive – Texas Woman’s University

Cookbooks and Home Economics

Corpus of Culinary & Dietetic texts of Europe from the Middle Ages to 1800 (Thomas Gloning)

Digital Book Index (historical cookbooks)

Digitized Rare Books (Virginia Tech, mostly culinary) and  

Feeding America

Folger Shakespeare Library, Digitized Receipt Books and Culinary Manuscripts

Gallica (from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France)

Gastronomy Books: From the Library of Congress

Hearth Cooking – America – 1800-Civil War

HEARTH: Home Economics Archive Research Tradition History (Cornell)

Historic Cookbooks Online (most from Google Books)

Historic German Cookery books

Internet Archive (tremendous collection of old culinary and home economics texts)

Medieval and Renaissance Food

Nicola Di Bona Peterson Collection of Advertising Cookbooks (Duke University)

Online Books Page (University of Pennsylvania)

Online Cookbooks (medieval texts)

Online Culinary History Network

Professor Martha Carlin’s Site: Culinary Texts

Savoring the Past: 18th and Early Nineteenth Century Cookbooks: Searchable and Free

University of Texas San Antonio Mexican Cookbook Collection

Utah State University Digitized Cookbooks

Vintage Cookbooks

Scholarship on Cookbooks

Albala, Ken, 'Cookbooks as Historical Documents', Oxford Handbook of Food History, ed.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

Choudhury, Ishani, ‘A Palatable Journey through the Pages: Bengali Cookbooks and the “Ideal” Kitchen in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century’, Global Food History, 3:1 (2017).

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).*

Humble, Nicola, The Literature of Food: An Introduction from 1830 to the Present (London, 2020), 'Reading Recipes'
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.

Wheaton, Barbara, 'Cookbooks as Resources for Social History', Food in Time and Place, eds. Paul Freedman, Joyce Chaplin and Ken Albala, University of California Press (Berkeley, 2014).

*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).*

Notaker, Henry, A History of Cookbooks: From Kitchen to Page over Seven Centuries, University of California Press (Berkeley, 2017). 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).