Monday, June 13, 2016

Eat Your History! History through Cookbooks, Part 1

By Jeff Burns

My wife and I love cooking (and eating) and often combine that love with our love of history.  Over the years, we’ve accumulated a collection of cookbooks.  Our favorites are the ones that combine great recipes and culture and history.  Foodways are an important part of learning and enjoying history, and, of course, you can find interesting cookbooks in bookstores, but don’t forget to look for cookbooks in museums and historic sites as well.  You can also find them in garage sales, used book sales, and on Ebay.  Here are some of the books in our collection.

Chef Paul Prudhomme introduced many Americans to Creole and Cajun cuisine in the 1980s and 1990s.  He worked in the most famous restaurants in New Orleans and with many famous chefs.  He owned his own restaurants, made lots of television appearances and had his own cooking shows, and he published several cookbooks. Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen  is his first book, published in 1984, and our copy is well used.  He introduces readers to Cajun and Creole ingredients and techniques before providing dozens and dozens of easy to follow recipes in thirteen different categories, from jambalayas, to pork and rabbit to sweets and brunch.  One of our favorites, a go-to for special occasions, is shrimp Diane, a simple but decadent dish of shrimp, butter, and spices.

The Williamsburg Cookbook, first published in 1971, is a collection of traditional recipes that were served in the taverns and inns of colonial America, adapted and contemporized for modern cooks. You can find cream of peanut soup, shad roe omelets, and game pie, along with interesting stories about colonial tavern cooking and dining.

We bought The Best of Shaker Cooking at the Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire.  The Shakers were a religious sect, an offshoot of Quakerism, that established communities in America during the first half of the 19th century.  Simplicity and communal living were major tenets of the faith they practiced in their agrarian communities.  Their recipes used the fruits and vegetables that they grew themselves, and there is a great chapter on jams, jellies and preserves.

Gift shops at historic sites often have small and inexpensive paperback collections of recipes of the time.  Be sure to check them out.

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