Archive.org has a host of old cookery books (from mid-19th to mid-20th Century) available in many formats and on a host of topics. I happened across a few in my Pinterest feed and gone completely down the rabbit hole in this treasure trove of information. Sure some ideas might be out of date, but you never know what you might find when you explore these books. I’ll be sharing more books as I find them in the coming weeks. –Douglas
All the books of this description that have oeen worthy of consideration seem to have had a leading motive for their composition, either to introduce foreign modes, to teach new schools of cookery or new extremes of ornamentation, to teach manners, or to put in practice the theories of great chemists and new idea doctors — Leibig, Graham, the vegetarians, and others. If a motive can be found for the work in hand, it is to make good cooks; such as are always in demand at good wages. It was commenced in a persistent endeavor of the writer, to break in untrained assistants to do cooking as it should be done, and the utmost plainness of language and exactness of quantities that were necessary in such cases have been preserved as the main requisites to the usefulness of the book. Already, before the appearance of the Cooking School in book form, a sort of wondering surprise had been expressed that fine cooking could be such a plain and easy matter, as if there was an expectation that the mysterious part would begin after awhile; but doubtless the day is past for the most necessary art of cookery to be hidden and made unintelligible by the use of unknown words and phrases. At least, when the writer wanted assistants to do something in a certain way, he used the kind of language to make them understand. Perhaps that is why this is called a cooking school.
In regard to the reliability of the recipes, it would be expressing but little to say they have all been tried, for they have been matters of daily practice for years, and most of them have been changed and improved until it is believed the highest pitch of excellence has been reached and may always be by those who carefully follow the directions. There is much more in the book than at first may appear, for nothing is repeated and almost every dish — every meat dish and soup at any rate is a model for a number of other articles to be prepared in the same way, for example : there is one real fricassee thickened with eggs, that of frogs; one stew with wine, that of terrapin; one bird pie with brown gravy, one with common stew gravy; one example of a blanquette or white dish, the supreme of fowl, and so it will be found all through. There has been a special avoidance of the terrible “or” of most cook books, which invariably leads off to different persons’ ways of doing the same thing and to the inquirer who does know something when she has read the first recipe, ending by knowing nothing after perusing them all. Where there are more ways than one, one of them must be the best, and the author of a cook book should be able to say which it is.
As to the menus, the writer has never during an extended experi ence found it practicable or desirable to follow a pattern bill-of-fare in every particular, there are too many reasons for changing the intentions ; either there is something in the house that must be used, or the dealer who supplies the house has not the particular article on hand or something else is in the way, so that, at best, a pattern menu can only serve as a suggestion of dishes to choose from. As nothing is repeated in the lists of available dishes here presented, the number of changes and substitutions that can be made will be found very considerable.
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† Available from the LA Public Library