I have a thing for old and obscure cookbooks. I have quite the collection. Some were passed down by others, some I was lucky enough to find in thrift stores or garage sales. There’s something so insightful about these old books. They are like a small window into the past, better than most history books in some ways. It’s interesting to see the different methods of cooking, trends in ingredients and food-styles. It’s also interesting to see and be able to make and taste a bit of history that was special enough to someone to write it down.
I’ve managed to learn some different techniques in order to recreate some of the recipes–which might be more than 100 years old, older than the modern stove or oven. I’m not above breaking out the dutch oven and/or cooking over an open fire to achieve as close a likeness as possible to what the original recipe might have tasted like. It’s a fantastic way to explore the past, and to pick up insight into the daily life of an ordinary person of years gone by. (And in some cases, NOT so ordinary!)
Here is a small taste of my collection of cookbooks that I use regularly. I may at some point go dig up my carefully stored older books and snap a few photos as well.
101 Marvelous Muffins by Adele Marks
I absolutely adore this book. There are 129 sweet and savoury muffin recipes, and it is fantastically illustrated. It was published in 1982 by The National Press in Weston, Ontario.
Some good muffin-making advice. Look at that adorable illustration!! Check out these amazing illustrations, I’ve only included my favourites, but they are all pretty good!
The Johnson Family Cookbook Compiled by Frances Hardin Ingram
Ok, this one is not that old, but the recipes in it are! The author is actually a distant relation of mine, and some of my ancestor’s and family’s recipes are included in this cookbook. I love that it includes a family tree and family stories, as well as seemingly random miscellaneous information about coffee filters and flour sacks. This book was published in 2011 by Fundcraft Publishing, Inc of Collierville, TN
The Householder Recipes for the Home–Uxbridge Fall Fair
The recipes in this book were collected in honor of the 125th anniversary of the Uxbridge Fall Fair. Uxbridge is a small hamlet in Ontario which was founded in 1804. There are recipes for Chinese Chews, Boterkoek, War Cakes, Scriptural Cake, Haymaker’s Switchel, coffee substitutes, and potato candy. There are also many “household recipes” such as fabric softener, and all-purpose cleaners. There is an entire medical remedies section including a doubtful remedy for Whooping Cough and something called “Toad Ointment”. It’s an absolutely fantastic recipe book.
The Murray House Cook Book
This fab cookbook is hand-written and photocopied. It seems to have been a labour of love from “Carol” to her group of friends and is a collection of recipes Niki Murray. This is an excerpt from the Introduction:
“My husband Jim + I have been friends of Niki’s for a long time, and along with many others, have encouraged her to put together a cookbook.
After much prodding, she has complied + the results, as you’ll see, are wonderful! All of us can now enjoy her recipes at home + remember great nights of dining at the ‘Murray House’.”
The book includes a history, a ghost story, “How to Cook a Husband”, some jokes, advice and some killer recipes.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek into my old and obscure cookbooks. I have several more, but maybe someday soon I’ll crack them out of their careful storage for some photos.