Thursday, April 19, 2007

Old Cookbooks. A window into the past

I love to collect old cookbooks. I can buy some at a yard sale and happily sit down and read them like other people would novels. They contain much more than just recipes. A period cookbook can be a glimpse into ways of life that don’t exist anymore. A window looking in on how our parents and grandparents lived, cooked, entertained and the economics of the times. One book that I have was written during the ration years of WWII and involve how to make a cake without any of the standard ingredients that we take for granted today. Other books describe how to host a dinner party, during the Depression years, with less than the normal amount of servants, including lovely photos of how to dress your maid for afternoon or evening gatherings. There are descriptions of what the dedicated housewife of the 1950’s should prepare for the husband returning from work, with suggestions on how she should dress to greet him at the door.

Unlike today where we can go a super market and pick up any ingredient we want, imported from all over the world, there were times when ingredients were seasonal, local and just not available. Eggs from the chickens scratching in the backyard were abundant in the spring and scarce in winter. When there was such a plethora of eggs, our Grandmother’s coped by making Angel Food Cakes and Pound Cakes full of eggs.

Other ingredients that were commonly used have fallen out of favor or have been given the ax by nutritionists and the food police. Lard was replaced by Crisco. Now transfats like Crisco are being banned. Marbled beef is getting a bad rap. Butter was replaced by Oleo Margarine, however now we have gone back to butter again. Ingredients come and go. Gone but not forgotten in the cookbooks of yester-year.

1 comment:

Ornithophobe said...

Yep, the food police have replaced many of the ingredients my mamau's recipes called for, over the decades. For YEARS I struggled to make her biscuits. No matter what I did, they just didn't turn out right.

Then I found out that once-upon-a-time, biscuits were cut with lard. Bingo! Suddenly, my biscuits, pastries, scones... all of them "worked." Praise be to the pig, who giveth leaf lard and bacon. With lard, all pastries are possible. :)