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OP: The American Practical Cookery Book

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by a Practical Housekeeper
Regular price $90.00

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We could do no better job introducing this 1859 book than its own dedication has: 

To those housekeepers whose patience has been often tried, and their materials wasted in attempts to follow the impractical directions contained in cookery-books written with delicate fingers, and based upon French and other foreign writers, this volume, (expressly and painstakingly prepared for those who would have good living without an exorbitant outlay of time and money, and free from the risks of mere “experimenting,”) is humbly dedicated.

American Practical Cookery offers insight into the livelihood of an average, middle income home during the mid-nineteenth century US. This is hearty, salt of the earth fare, predating gas ranges, reliable refrigeration, and electric appliances. There are no pretensions that cooking during the 1850s was anything other than laborious. 

Sections on meat cookery include advice on keeping it free of rot: “if in the fly season, a mixture of pepper and ginger rubbed upon the surface will prevent their depredations'' and “pieces of charcoal and salt laid around meat will tend to resist putrifaction.” And a robust baking section is preceded with sound advice on how different woods will burn hotter than others, useful  observations for anyone using wood-fired ovens.

Other advice includes: reserving all grease and ashes for soap-making, how to roast coffee at home, how to kill bugs (mercury and egg white), proper table setting, and caring for the sick and invalid.

Though we are aware of no copies of this scarce title bearing any date other than 1859, we believe ours was published in the mid-1860s when publisher John E. Potter had moved to 617 Sansom St. in Philadelphia and incorporated the business, as indicated on the title page. Handsomely typeset on sturdy stock, ours is largely clean. The cloth case is black and gilt-stamped with some soiling and discoloration. The spine is soiled, brittling, and chipping at the head and foot and about the publisher’s stamp on the bottom. Includes 50 engravings and attractive endpapers. We’ve wholly enjoyed this one.

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