I don’t know when I first came across Project Guttenberg’s collection of old cookbooks, but for a cookbook hound like me, it is a total treasure. I give plenty of shelf room to the cookbooks I inherited from my late mother-in-law, including Elizabeth David’s French Country Cooking (1952), The Perfect Hostess Cook Book (1950), and The Brown Derby Cookbook (1949), not to mention the complete Time-Life cookbook series that my mom gave me when she was downsizing, but now I can get a digital fix, too.
There are true gems, like a complete edition of the indispensable Mrs. Beaton’s Book of Household Management , and oddities like The Story of Crisco. You’ll find single-dish cookbooks, like The Curry Cook’s Assistant: or, Curries, How to Make Them in England in Their Original Style (for returned imperialists craving a taste of the raj?), a 19th century sandwich cookbook, and even a cocktail cookbook from 1917 that works its way alphabetically from abricontine and absinthe to whiskey. There are church cookbooks, civic group cookbooks, cookbooks for war time, a cookbook written by a former slave. and basic family cookbooks for every day. Each one is a window onto a time and a point of view that is, in some ways, so changed from today and yet these writers also convey a way of thinking about food and cooking that’s not so far from Lisa’s and mine:
The day has passed for regarding cooking as a menial and vulgar labor;
and those who give some thought to their daily food usually gain in
vigor and cheerfulness.
Not convinced that cooking will give you a good dose of vigor and cheerfulness? Maybe reading about these breakfasts will.