Old cookbooks are filled with history

Posted by | August 17, 2009

Please welcome guest bloggers Roger and June Lowe, a writing/photography team in Bluff City, TN. They travel the highways and byways of the Appalachians searching for descriptive words and photos. Their work appears in several outdoor publications, and at Appalachian Outdoor Recreation Examiner.

In addition to recipes, a cookbook can dish up a nice serving of history. Especially a book published in 1890 and passed down from mother to daughter (and in some cases, grandmother to granddaughter) through the years. Appalachian history can be found in the oddest places and attached to the strangest things.

“My daughter is the fifth owner of this book,” Granny Laura said, tapping the antique book with a finger. “I remember her grandmother getting it out occasionally to look up something. It was starting to fall apart even then and she wouldn’t let anyone hold it. I can’t remember a time while she was alive that I had this book in my hands.”

Three Meals a Day” by Maud C. Cooke cookbookThe book can only be described as deteriorating rapidly. The cover (front and back), along with the first 22 pages and who knows how many back pages, were missing. The leaves, yellowed and brittle, were pulling free from the fragile sewn binding.

“These old cookbooks were way more than just a collection of cooking recipes,” Granny continued. “A book would offer recipes for cooking. Then you’d find a section of hints and tips for many health issues including invalid cooking. The toilet and bath was covered with details for taking care of the skin, hair, and other various parts. And a book always had a section of housekeeping suggestions and tips.”

Leafing carefully through the brittle pages uncovers a wealth of knowledge about how we lived ‘way back then’. For example, details on preparing wild game are presented. Want to know how to prepare Frog on Toast or Squab Pie? Recipes can be found on page 59.

Worried about graying hair? Page 523 in the Toilet section describes one way to cover the gray. The recipe calls for an infusion of butternut (walnut) hulls and daily dampening of the hair with strong cold tea or coffee. Today’s HBA section in the local retail store is much more convenient.

Three Meals a Day” by Maud C. Cooke cookbookThe title of the book “Three Meals a Day” is printed at the top of every left page. Researching the title revealed additional information (along with photos that ascertain this is the same book). “Three Meals a Day” by Maud C. Cooke, copyright 1890, printed in Chicago by ACME Publishing House was sold by subscription only.

Is it a history book? Not by any stretch of the imagination, but insights about the socio-economic standards of the time can be found throughout the book. Old cookbooks—interesting reading.

cookbooks appalachian+foods home+making appalachia appalachian+history history+of+appalachia

2 Responses

  • Amy Bakey says:

    i have one of these cookbooks….it appears to be intact with cover…i dont believe any pages are missing. Any idea how valuable this may be?

  • Abigail Dennis says:

    I also have “Three Meals A Day” published in 1890. The cover is not attached but is still with the book, and all pages are attached. Any idea how valuable the book is?

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