The first cookbook in American was published in 1798, perhaps an earlier pamphlet may have been circulating in New England as early as 1793, by Amelia Simmons entitled American Cookery. Its mere 48 pages is a good preface for all cooks in America and recently was named on the Library of Congress great 88 books list. And, they didn’t have all those appetizing images like they do today.
Ingredients utilized 200 years ago were a little different then they are today. You had to preserve your own fruits and vegetables. Sugar came in loaf form and was expensive. They didn’t have electric or gas stoves, but fire and cast iron pots. We don’t see many turtles at local supermarkets and for economy sake, every part of an animal and ingredient had to be used. Back then, It took several weeks and much patience to cure bacon.
The way cookbook writing has evolved from a narrative of instruction to a methodical- specific-ingredient-driven-list displays are evolution of science, mechanization, and technical writing. The narrative allows for fluidity, creativity, interpretation, and utilizing what ingredients are around. Cooks today should learn to be creative with recipes and adapt them to what is locally and economically available.
The Michigan State Library hosts an extensive online archive of American cooking texts called Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project. To read American Cookery click here.