Here is a little-known and not often seen book published in 1883. But with a preface that begins with a brilliant quip such as, “Another cook book! Why? Because among the dozens that have come under our observation, none were quite complete. Many were so brief as to omit many necessary things. Others were so voluminous as to be full of trash,” our attention is certainly piqued.
This copy is an 1887 reprint done in paperback for subscribers of the Farm and Fireside Library series. Farm and Fireside—based in Springfield, Ohio—was a farming magazine that gave birth to the Crowell-Collier Publishing Company. This in turn became Mast, Crowell and Kirkpatrick Publishers in 1879. The aforementioned Kirkpatrick, Thomas Jefferson Kirkpatrick, was the husband of the otherwise unnamed compiler of The Housekeepers’ New Cook Book.
Preceded by a section entitled Practical Suggestions to Young Housekeepers and a brief summary of essential kitchen equipment, the collection reads a bit like a community cookbook. Many of the recipes are attributed to their originators, perhaps subscribers to the magazine, and largely from rural farming communities around the US.
While some of the recipes are questionable at best (i.e. bread soup consisting of stale bread covered in boiled water and “seasoned” with a tablespoon of sweet cream), the primary appeal of the book is in its largely Midwestern perspective on food and cookery during the US’s Gilded Age. This is mostly humble, unsophisticated fare for homes where meals weren’t cooked and served by household staff, nor does it reflect the dressed-up, showy dishes of the emerging middle class of the early 20th century. A fascinating, delightful insight.
The books were printed on rather flimsy, high-acid stock. It is fair to say our copy has suffered a good deal of discoloration, chipping, and staining with age and use. In order to give it longer life, we have had it rebound in beige cloth with the original cover laid on. Now sturdy enough for a third century of readers.