Monday, October 4th, 2010
History and cooking are two of my main interests, and I’ve been fascinated for years with the history of cooking. When I was about 14 a family friend gave me a collection of historical recipes published by the British Museum; my next acquisition, picked up during my undergrad career as a Classical Archaeology major, was a copy of a 1950s translation of Apicius’s ancient Roman De Re Coquinaria. Within a few years I found my stack of cookbooks expanding in size and scope and definitely taking on “collection” form. I rescued a volume of 70s casserole recipes from a roommate’s Salvation Army box and began scouring thrift stores for kitschy cookbooks. My single shelf of books went from half-full to 2 rows deep.
This collection has been gathering dust on my shelves: I tend to buy these books, flip through and marvel at black & white plates depicting aspics and roasts, and then forget about them. On occasion I find a recipe I think I’d like to try…but I usually get distracted by my colorful, easy-to-use Martha Stewart Cookie/Cupcake books and move on.
I decided this must stop: I will dig back into the culinary past to look for recipe gems and curiosities, and I will document my efforts here. I’m not Julie Powell – I’m not setting this up as a challenge. Think of me rather as a Cookbook Indiana Jones scouring the strata of my shelves in search of any number of Holy Grails: the best refrigerator cookies from the 50s, new flavor combos from Ancient Rome, esoteric country-style forcemeats.
Enjoy and please pass on any of your own recipe finds!