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OP: The American Pastry Cook

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by Jessup Whitehead
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Jessup Whitehead & Co., Publishers, 1891. Hardcover. Very Good.

London-born Jessup Whitehead (1833–1889)—chef, traveler, and newspaper columnist—was a prolific writer in the late 19th century US where he had made his home. His cookbooks focus on institutional cooking, as in hotel and catering businesses.

During a period when the hospitality industry was booming, Whitehead’s self-publishing enterprise proved to be prescient, and books like The Hotel Book of Breads and Cakes (1881), The American Pastry Cook (1882), Hotel Meat Cooking (1883), Cooking for Profit (1886), and The Steward’s Handbook and Guide to Party Catering (1889), were extremely successful. 

We offer here one of Whitehead’s earliest books, The American Pastry Cook, in its scarce 6th edition, printed in 1891. We know of no other copies of this edition or earlier available on the secondary market. Katherine Bitting’s Gastronomic Bibliography only lists the seventh. 

Whitehead’s newspaper column writing experience lends a friendly, informative tone to this serious and pragmatic work. His humorous introduction, for example, debates whether “recipe” or “receipt” is the proper term. The author lands on the latter after hearing the former referred to as an “affected city word.” Appealing more broadly to the common person, Whitehead abandons his preferred trisyllable for the more humble “receipt.”

Recipes, er...receipts, run the gamut of American cookery: cakes, pies, ices, fritters, pancakes and waffles, muffins, breads and biscuits, custards and creams. There is even one for the tortilla, which employs cornmeal and is described as a thinner form of hoe cake. The intro to the fourth edition (also printed in this edition) makes an amendment, acknowledging that the use of cornmeal is not standard and proceeds to describe traditional Mexican cooking methods, including nixtamalization.

Pleasantly, our copy is in Very Good condition. The interior is strikingly clean and crisp, save for a few errant blemishes. The title page is torn and previously repaired with scrap paper and paste. The spine sun faded; the gilt title bright. Previous ownership stamps, names, and bookseller labels appear on the front endpapers. 

This copy comes from the Sontheimer Foundation Library. Carl Sontheimer (1914–1998) invented the original Cuisinart food processor.

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