Ever since I took my first rather clueless steps into homemaking and cooking at the tender age of 19, I've been an avid collecter of cookbooks. I need all the advice they contain! At first I was happy to add just about any cookbook to my collection--but over time I began to get rid of the more modern, faddish ones, and the ones that tended to use a lot of pre-packaged ingredients, and tried to find more books that featured tried-and-true, old-fashioned recipes. The old style of cooking tended to use simple, whole ingredients and be more focused on good taste and presentation than on satisfying a certain diet fad.
For this reason, I love very old cook books. And I have started a collection of antiques, which sits on top of a cupboard in my kitchen where little hands can't reach them.
I do use the recipes in these books sometimes, but what I like the most is the charm of another era that spills from the pages. In the past, homemaking, housekeeping, laundry, and cooking were seen as related skills, and so old cookbooks often contain a great deal of advice for the housewife in running her home. This advice is (as you might guess) sometimes quite amusing to us today, but sometimes helpful as well.
I found all of these at my favourite local used and rare bookstore (see previous post). The first one I found was a 1906 copy of the Boston Cooking School Book, by Fanny Farmer. (This book was originally published in 1896 and is considered an American classic.) This is my oldest book, and it's such fun to look at, especially all the ads in the back featuring everything from corsets to pineapple juice.
There is a dash of green marker on the spine of this one, put there by a little person soon after I brought it home. I wasn't very happy about that, but then I noticed that another little person (likely many, many years ago) had written "Danny" in black ink on the bottom of the book...some things never change!
Next I found a 1930s copy of Mrs. Beeton's Everyday Cookery. This is a "modern" edition of British housekeeping manual, first published way back in 1861, which means it contains a lot of information about managing the servants! It's quite a thick book though, with loads of simple recipes and household tips.
The other day I found Good Housekeeping's Book of Menus, Recipes and Household Discoveries, published in 1922. I just love this one--it contains a lot of good recipes, but in the back is a section called "Household Disoveries" which features tidbits of advice sent into the magazine by readers. There are sections on laundry, sewing, cooking, decorating, etc. As a bonus, stashed inside the front cover were a stack of lovely little booklets of Jello recipes--copyright 1924.