The Every Day Cookbook

The economic downturn has me nesting a little. I’m not just weeding out what we don’t need; I’m exploring old sources for doing things. Going low tech is a defense mechanism for me. Looking at what I have for multiple uses is another.

I inherited a number of old books from my grandmother, including two old cookbooks. One is ‘The American Woman’s Cookbook’, copyright 1942, which has not only recipes but also instructions on planning menus, packing lunches, and marketing (grocery shopping, not selling to others). In flipping through it, I found margin notes in Grandma’s writing, so I know she used that one. The other book is older and has missing pages, but the header on each page was ‘The Every Day Cookbook.’ It is also more than a cookbook; more like an almanac or encyclopedia. It reminds me of the ‘Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook’ I got as a wedding gift, which has a section on basic nutrition and instructions for chopping onions and other things I took for granted.

Being a sucker for historic detail, I looked up ‘The Every Day Cookbook’ online. It was written by Miss E. Neill and published in 1889. I could not find any other copyright information until I found a link to Barnes and Noble. Apparently it was reprinted in December 2007. It has some really good information in it, most of which would have been common sense in 1889: Do your own grocery shopping rather than leaving it to your servants (i.e. husband or kids these days?), pay cash unless absolutely necessary, choose only the best produce and meat. Some of it is outdated, such as saving someone from choking by quickly bending the end of a hatpin into a hook and using it to extract the obstruction. That one makes me shiver!

I’m considering buying a new copy to have for reference so I don’t trash my original, although I may wait to see if I get it for Christmas. If the gloom and doom the news portents comes to pass, we may all find ourselves going back to the way things were done in 1889.

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