Artifact spotlight: the vintage cookbook

The most important aspect of this post was figuring out how to work in a shout-out for my current television obsession:The Great British Bake-Off. Unlike other shows that encourage backstabbing, panic, and screaming for a  monetary prize, Bake-Off offers nothing more than the satisfaction of winning. It’s a kinder, gentler Twilight Zone sort of reality show. Contestants are friendly and quick to help each other. The judges offer advice and the hosts even lend helping hands (and freely graze on scraps left on benches). I especially love how bakes that fall on the floor are still judged for taste. Anyway, the show really highlights the joy of baking and isn’t that what baking should be about?

Speaking of the joy of baking, I suppose it’s time to get to the point. 2000.02.072


This is one of the oldest cookbooks in the Museum collection. The New Process Catalogue & Cookbook is dated 1892 and cost only $1.50 when published. It belonged to Mrs Elza M Balliett of Chicago and if its extremely poor condition is any indication, Mrs Balliett used this book a lot.

What I love about vintage cookbooks is the solid practical advice for cooking timeless staple foods.  There’s no need for specialty tools or hard-to-find ingredients, and the directions are not fussy. Sure, there are odd recipes for food no one makes anymore (hello, aspic and mustard pickles), but that’s what makes old cookbooks fun.

The Museum has a bunch of vintage cookbooks in the collection ranging from 1886- 1970. Come by and have a flick through. You might just get inspired to make something special.

Bonus: Mary Berry’s tiramisu cake recipe This recipe is not as complicated as it appears and ends up looking like a treat worthy of a special occasion. It tastes like a special occasion, too! Yay, I knew I could steer this back to Bake-Off.



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