A de­li­cious his­tory

The amer­i­can story told in cook­book se­ries.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TASTE - By Bill Da­ley

THE Amer­i­can story is usu­ally told through bat­tles, bal­lots and bravado, not the bis­cuits, briskets and beans cooked up by gen­er­a­tions of cooks. That sit­u­a­tion is be­ing rec­ti­fied thanks to a se­ries of his­toric cook­books, drink guides and house­keep­ing man­u­als be­ing re­pub­lished online and in print.

The books in the Amer­i­can An­ti­quar­ian Cook­book Col­lec­tion – 100 to­tal will be re­leased by spring – rep­re­sent a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the 201-year-old Amer­i­can An­ti­quar­ian So­ci­ety, a Worces­ter, Mas­sachusetts-based re­search li­brary spe­cial­is­ing in Amer­i­can life be­fore 1876, and An­drews McMeel Pub­lish­ing of Kansas City, Missouri.

“Our au­di­ences are food­ies and peo­ple who have a love of food and his­tory,” says Kirsty Melville, An­drews McMeel pres­i­dent and publisher.

Some peo­ple, she adds, may ac­tu­ally want to cook from th­ese books, whose pages are ren­dered ex­actly as orig­i­nally pub­lished in all that glo­ri­ous im­pre­ci­sion of an ear­lier age. Or they may sim­ply find th­ese books make for a fas­ci­nat­ing read, she says.

The books cho­sen for the se­ries tend to be firsts, like the first uniquely Amer­i­can cook­book, Amelia Sim­mons’ Amer­i­can Cook­ery of 1796, or the first South­ern cook­book, Mary Ran­dolph’s The Vir­ginia House­Wife of 1824. Or the cook­book em­pha­sises a theme that res­onates to­day, like the thrift ex­tolled in 1829’s The Fru­gal House­wife by Ly­dia Marie Child, the ve­gan diet pro­moted by Wil­liam Al­cott in Veg­etable Diet of 1838 or the Louisiana cook­ing of The Picayune’s Cre­ole Cook Book of 1901.

So­ci­ety Pres­i­dent Ellen Dun­lap says the li­brary has more than 1,000 cook­books, which were col­lected by a board mem­ber a cen­tury ago.

The books are im­por­tant, she notes, be­cause of what cook­ing “says about us as in­di­vid­u­als, as fam­i­lies and as cul­tures.”

Cook­books, she adds, help us un­der­stand the role food has played in past so­ci­eties.

So far, 69 his­toric books have been re­leased in e-book form.

Ten of the most sig­nif­i­cant books in the se­ries have also been pub­lished in hard­cover print edi­tions. – Chicago Tri­bune/McClatchy-Tri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

Trea­sures from the past: the books in the amer­i­can an­ti­quar­ian cook­book col­lec­tion – 100 to­tal will be re­leased by spring – try to tell the amer­i­can story through gen­er­a­tions of cooks. — chicago tri­bune/mct

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