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vintage/historical cookbooks

Any cookbook historians out there? I'd love recommendations for the best ancient world/historical/vintage cookbooks--anything from Apicius to the original Fanny Farmer. Cookbooks that focus on reinterpretations of old recipes are of interest too. And culinary histories, if that's not too broad a request.

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  1. I've been picking up cookbooks from extinct restaurants, as well as those with a long lifespan. The Luchow's Cookbook is a great time capsule of German cooking from 1880 to 1950. Galatoire's Cookbook is also a great read, along with Antoine's and Uglesich's.

    6 Replies
    1. re: monkeyrotica

      I've got the Luchows cookbook also, from my parents, it was exactly what I thought of seeing this thread. I've also got an old history of McSorley's Bar in NYC from my father, don't think there are any recipes though. (no recipes in the McSorley's book BTW)

      1. re: steinpilz

        When I used to go to McSorley's--late 50's--the only food consisted of a plate of sliced raw onion, a package of Saltine crackers, and a chunk of cheese, that Midwest Camembert-like stuff whose name my aging brain refuses to recall...

        1. re: rootlesscosmo

          They still have that onion and cheese thing, now it's cheddar, which I think is great with beer. They do have other food now but I've never ordered it. Also sawdust on the floor, a coal burning stove, and no ladies room. My grandfather and my father both went to McSoreley's as young men in NYC, it's a real classic.

          1. re: rootlesscosmo

            Lived in NYS late from 50's off and on until '81 when my DH brought us to our current location. Never went to McSorley's, we were much closer to Montreal (45 mins) weren't women banned at some time until enlightenment? Anyway cheese and onions have always been a favorite. A hard combo to beat.

            1. re: Candy

              Yes, women were banned until very late. That was actually promoted as part of the attraction of the place. Besides the outrageous discrimination there was a kind of hearty butch-ness about the joint that's hard to see as other than ludicrous now. Also, as I recall the only booze on offer was the house ale, which wasn't bad (or so I thought when very young--legal drinking age was 18 in NY state then) but you were out of luck if you wanted anything else.

              Liederkranz! That was the cheese I was trying to remember earlier.

              1. re: Candy

                A Friendly Reminder-

                This thread is about cook books, not social commentary, please stay on topic for the thread, and for the mission of this food discussion site.


        2. You just might enjoy reading "Heat." He gets into some very ancient areas of cookery and cookbooks.

          In a NYT article, Mario Batali mentions "Umbria in Bocca." It is a hand written cookbook of "the old way." I found a facsimile on the net. It lists a lot of things I don't want to know about. At one time there was a series of these from every area of Italy.

          2 Replies
          1. re: yayadave

            I thought this series was too gimmicky to be real- I remember them being remaindered at Barnes and Noble more than 20 yrs ago. Maybe I was wrong.

            1. re: jen kalb

              If we only knew trash from treasure twenty years ago!

          2. "How to Cook and Eat in Chinese" is a really cool Blast from the past.
            Maybe Mr. Soup will weigh in.

            1 Reply
            1. re: bbqboy

              Interesting! That book is referenced in my 1950's Joy of Cooking--a blast from the past, itself.

            2. I picked up _The Cornucopia_, by Judith Herman and Marguerite Shalett Herman at the last LATimes Book Festival. First published in 1973, it's a collection of old recipes (from 1390 to 1899) from European and American sources. It's a charming book, inspired in part by old nursery rhymes (with such chapter titles like "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall" [eggs], "Little Jack Horner" [mince pies], and "Little Miss Muffet" [curds and whey]) - I spoke with Judith Herman when I bought the book, and I think that they were first inspired by wondering what exactly constituted "four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie" (recipe included in book). Recipes are given in their original state (I believe), with notes on the side. It's fun just to read.

              1. If you're interested in southern/Louisiana/New Orleans food, then you need the Times-Picayune's Creole Cookbook (reissued multiple times and some recipes date back to the late 19th century), as well as Lafcadio Hearn's Creole Cook Book (he was writing freelance for various newspapers and decided to write a cookery book to make extra cash).

                1. i have a copy of American Regional Cookery by Sheila Hibben publised in 1947. It is very interesting and sophisticated for it's time.

                  Another goodie is Out of Kentucky Kitchens with a froward by Duncan Hines pub. 1949. It is a real treasure. I have a bent towards Southern cooking and for the pure fun of it I would also recommend Cross Creek Cookery by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

                  1. Thank you! These are all great recommendations. American Regional Cookery and The Cornucopia sound especially appealing.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: natasha

                      my favorite for regional historic cooking is "America Cooks"
                      Favorite Recipes from the 48 States
                      By the Browns, Cora, Rose, and Bob
                      Garden City Books
                      First sentence:
                      We put in 20 years of culinary adventuring in about as many countries and wrote a dozen books about it before finding out
                      that we might as well have stayed home and specialized in the regional dishes of our own 48 states.
                      Each state starts with a menu, then local folklore and color, and recipes.
                      A tremendous book.
                      Add: this is NOT the American Federation of Women's Clubs cookbook of the same name.

                      1. re: natasha

                        American Regional Cooking is long out of print but I was checking for a price on it not long ago at Amazon and several dealers have copies out there.

                      2. This link may at least be interesting if not informative. It's to an exhibit held at the U of PA library of the cookbook collection of Fritz Blank, chef at Deux Cheminee in Philadelphia.


                        1. Follow the attached link to The Cook's Oracle - an English cookbook published in 1829 which is completely online. Not only does it have recipes, (Lots!!) it gives advice to the home cook (Seems like not just the wealthy classes, but also the Middle class people employed cooks then) on how to please the employers while maintaining personal dignity. Also how to issue invitations, plan dinner parties, how to conduct oneself correctly if a dinner guest, etc.... all in all it's a fascinating peek into a bygone era..........


                          1. Check the following link: http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/c...
                            The staff at Michigan State University have digitized historical American cookbooks from the late 18th to early 20th centuries. It's fascinating stuff.

                            1. You remind me that I need to read my way through two volumes of vintage Gourmet cookbooks that I picked up at a used bookstore. I haven't seen anything in them that I want to cook, but the photos from the 70s are a real hoot.

                              1. You might enjoy a book called "From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals" by Barbara Haber. She *is* a cookbook historian and her perspectives on how food and cooking are related to and actually even pushed social movements were most interesting.