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Anyone read dated cookbooks?

I came across a public-domain cookbook called "The Cook's Decameron: A Study in Taste, Containing Over Two Hundred Recipes For Italian Dishes" and it seems good. It covers all the building blocks of Italian cuisine and the recipes sound good, although exact measurement of ingredients is not provided. Does anyone read or use out-of-fashion cookbooks?

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  1. I like to read them, and then google what the ingredients are :)

    My brother actually gave me a little book that covers cooking in the 1500s... I really like reading those recipes, for things like mutton and bread-type stuff. I forget the name of it, I don't even know where it is (moved recently) but if I find it I'll let you know :)

    1. Yes! I've got some brilliant recipes dating back hundreds of years. Oh, and Escoffier books that call for interesting ingredients such as "cock's combs", swallow tongues, etc. They are a fascinating look into history because, after all, you can really learn a lot about a culture through its food. I am fascinated with ancient recipes!

      3 Replies
      1. re: chefathome

        The cookbook I mentioned features New Century Sauce which is used as a base for fish sauce, sauce piquante, sauce for roast pork, masking cutlets etc. The author noted that this sauce could be purchased in XYZ street. What can the New Century Sauce be?

        1. re: pearlyriver

          Gosh I love the internet! It seems that Lazenby's was a purveyor of pickles and condiments. Best guess it it was a type of brown sauce. Perhaps this one?

          http://www.tablesauce.co.uk/chef-sauce/

          1. re: Jeri L

            Gosh thank you so much. This site is crazy. Must be the brown sauce.

      2. I browse old second hand cookbooks at bookstore featuring used books. Many are the products of various clubs, churches and other organizations that put together the book to raise some funds. I also go to used book sales sponsored by local Libraries. Every once in a while I run across a gem (recipe or book) that I add to my collection.

        1. I read lots and lots of cookbooks, dated or not.

          Really enjoy doing it, in fact.

          I use them for inspiration, even though I never really follow the recipes.

          1. I currently have 5 different editions of the Fanny Farmer cookbook, ranging from c. 1920 to c. 2000. Besides reading them, I do use the older ones for some things, like pies. It's interesting to see the changes!

            I have a c. 1950 cookbook called "A Taste of Texas", published by Nieman-Marcus: it contains weird little tidbits, like military officials in Korea were not allowed to eat local foods (!), and tortillas were available in cans. Mexican food was still enough of a novelty among the book's readers that it had to explain some common ingredients. I have a book from the early 60s called "The Complete Book of Oriental Cooking", that suggests beer is an acceptable substitute for miso. OTOH, old cookbooks often have a lot of recipes for "variety" meets; my old Fanny Farmer books have a lot more varieties of salad dressings than even the best-stocked supermarket contains.

            I don't think I'm going to store my eggs in water glass any time soon, though.

            8 Replies
            1. re: tardigrade

              The eggs in water makes sense to me. Fresh eggs that have not been washed can be kept at room temp because they have a coating that makes them air-impermiable. Supermarket eggs do not have that natural coating. Submerging them probably prevents them from developing big air pockets, and spoiled eggs float. When refrigeration was not commonplace, this would have been sensible.

              1. re: greygarious

                "water glass" is actually sodium metasilicate: it was used to store eggs for several months. Apparantly (I'm a city gal), hens lay more at certain times of the year. Otherwise, eggs fresh from the hen or market were kept at room temperature (or in as cool a spot as available). One of the unspoken assumptions in my older cookbooks is that the housewife will shop several times a week, which my grandmothers certainly did.

              2. re: tardigrade

                I remember my Mom using canned tortillas to make enchiladas in the 60s (she does not remember this herself.), along with canned enchilada sauce, etc.

                1. re: tardigrade

                  tardigrade, that Nieman-Marcus book is a good collectors' item, partly because (if it's the one I'm thinking of) it was written by their food director at the time, Helen Corbett, who went on to write quite a few more cookbooks, all good. The Mexican recipes got a lot more authentic as people's comfort zones expanded and the tortillas came out of the cans!

                  1. re: tardigrade

                    I love tardigrades. Cute little things.
                    I like reading depression era and ration stamps recipe booklets.

                    1. re: calliope_nh

                      Where do you find 'em? Is there good stuff, or do you just read for interest?

                      1. re: jvanderh

                        Tardigrades? Damp, mossy places usually, I think.

                        The cookbooks - mainly by being old enough to have bought them new :) Or library sales, used book stores.

                        1. re: tardigrade

                          I collect these cookbooks as well. Always learn something new from them.