Some of you know me well enough to know that I love old books.
I mean really old books, like over 100 years old.
I like to visit the online library Forgotten Books,
and browse the books I find there–
mostly educational books
old books on cooking, craft, and gardening.
This morning, before the sky was light, I was skimming pages of an old cook book titled Things Mother Used To Make. Okay, you need to know another thing about me–I have always enjoyed reading cookbooks. I know, it sounds a bit crazy, but for me recipes are stories.
Put the two together–old books, cookbooks–and you will understand my choice of reading this morning.
Before I share about the recipes, take a look at the title page. Notice the caption under the author’s name: “A Collection of Old Time Recipes, Some Nearly One Hundred Years Old and Never Published Before.” Now, notice the publishing date: 1913. With a quick calculation, that means some of the never-before-published recipes in this book are from the 18th century. That means inside the covers of this book, I’ll get a glimpse of the baking, stewing and canning in American kitchens over 200 years ago. And that means I’ll have a collection of recipes for authentic, organic, “from scratch” cooking.
And so, I began to read.
I smiled when I read about a “piece of butter” with amounts designated as “the size of a marble… a hazelnut… a walnut… an egg.” After all, our great-greats didn’t have sticks of butter wrapped in paper with TBSP measurements marked. And no mention of margarine (yuck).
The beef stew and dumpling recipe caught my eye. I love stews and dumplings. The directions for the dumplings say to “roll out an inch thick and cut into round pieces. … Put on a wire plate, on top of the meat; cover and let boil twenty minutes.” Wow, these are really steam-baked biscuits! I’ve read a bit about steam-baking, but never tried it. Now I’m thinking I need to try it. But what exactly is a wire plate?
While googling to find out more about wire plates, I came across this page from the March 1912 issue of “Suburban Life.” How appropriate–March! and the beef stew recipe! Sorry, the print isn’t too clear, but if you want the recipe, just open page 35 in the book Things My Mother Used To Make.
At times, there are words in this old cookbook that I’ve never seen before. Like this safety tip in the recipe for canning peaches: “Fill the jar with the boiling syrup, being careful always to cant the jar as you pour it in. If you do this, the jar will never crack, as it is likely to do if held perfectly straight or upright.” Cant? From the context, I’m going to say it means to tilt the jar. Sure enough, a quick check in my e-dictionary confirmed that meaning. (Note to my teacher-self for vocabulary skill practice: This is a good context clue text.)