I’ve been interested in trying vintage recipes for a long time, but I’ve never actually done it. I’ve had a little cookbook for several years, but I’ve shied away from actually using it. Come to think of it, I have two vintage cookbooks and I’ve read them in large part, but not tried them. The first one is called White House Cook Book: A Selection of Choice Recipes, Original and Selected, During a Period of Forty Years’ Practical Housekeeping by F.L. Gillette and originally published in 1887. The second is Thomas Jefferson’s Cook Book by Marle Kimball. Both are great reads if you are interested in cooking and/or history. There are also many handy tips in each one.
For instance, if you want to ensure that you will never catch a cold, then be sure not to take in the air after dark, for it is well known that night air is the cause of colds, according to Gillette. If you want to ensure that you won’t run out of fresh vegetables, you should check out Thomas Jefferson’s crop planting charts.
Of course, when the holidays come along and you want to dazzle family and friends, you might want to try the 24 course Christmas Dinner served at the White House back in the day… and for something refreshing on a hot summer’s evening, who can beat peach ice cream from Monticello… (it may not be quite what you expect, however.)
Both contain vintage recipes, and if I’m honest, that’s why I haven’t tried them. The 1887 book probably has measurements that are like the ones we use today; they became standardized in the mid to late 19th century. Yet in Mr. Jefferson’s case, is the “cup” they used to measure with the same size as a measuring cup as we know it?
The only way to find out is to try it.
How about a teaspoon, was the spoon Mr. Jefferson stirred his tea with the same as a teaspoon we use to measure with? If the spoons we have today are any indication, then the answer would be no, since our modern “tea spoons” are actually two “teaspoons”.
I won’t even mention “small bags” or a “bowl” of something…
It would all need to be figured out; an educated guess, followed by trial and error…
Doesn’t that sound like a fun adventure?
For me, it sounds like a fun adventure and also like a money-pit: I think I’ll try a few and see how it goes. When I have some news, I’ll let you know; naturally I’ll take a photo or two along the way… Since the White House book is full of High Victorian splendor, I think I’ll begin with the simplicity of Mr. Jefferson’s late 18th and early 19th century selections.