What did our ancestors eat?

Recently I have come across many different resources for cookbooks form various time periods. I have also found some cookbooks on Amazon either free or very cheap. These are wonderful resources to learn more about an important part of daily life of our ancestors: cooking and eating.

For those in the Boston area, the Schlesinger Library (part of the Harvard library system) has a wonderful cookbook collection and is one of the few Harvard libraries open to the public. While I have not had the chance yet to review the collection, I did stop by earlier this week to get a general overview of what was there, and the reference librarian was very helpful. Read this news article or visit the library website to learn more.

Another great resource is the Feeding America site at Michigan State University. The University has more than 10,000 cookbooks in its collection and 76 are available digitally on the website. These are from all different time periods from 1798 to 1922. A pdf file is available for these cookbooks, as well as a transcript. They also provide a glossary and pictures of various cooking implements on the website.

Historical cookbooks can also be found in gifts shops at living history museums, on Amazon (search historical cookbooks), and maybe even in your attic or among family papers. Also look at culinary history books that provide an overview of prevailing views about food and nutrition over various time periods.

I’m browsing through “Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats”  by Karen Hess and “Northern Hospitality: Cooking by the Book in New England”.  What are you reading? What interesting recipes have you found from a place and time important to you and/or your ancestors?

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