Much as I'd like to say that I pull my knowledge of historical cooking out of my brief experience at a living history museum, I'm indebted to a number of books for information about time periods and specific foods. Here's a list of the resources I've used so far in creating this blog.

Colonial Williamsburg

  • The Williamsburg Art of Cookery by Helen Bullock. Published for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, this cookbook is the next step up from The Little House Cookbook. It's a compilation of original recipes from the colonial era, with a few adjustments and section introductions for modern readers. However, most of the instructions are in the original, hard-to-decipher language.

  • Home Life in Colonial Days by Alice Morse Earle. This is an invaluable resource for anyone wondering about the tools used in hearth cooking, as well as many other sociological aspects of colonial life.

Little House on the Prairie

  • The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker. Many of us grew up with this gem, which tells the reader all about cooking foods that Laura Ingalls Wilder ate in her semi-autobiographical books. It's the perfect book for beginning historical cooks, since it explains what unfamiliar ingredients are and when families might have eaten things like fried salt pork.

1900 Settlements

  • The "Settlement" Cook Book by Mrs. Simon Kander and Mrs. Henry Schoenfeld. Published in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1903, this cookbook grew out of cooking classes that Mrs. Kander taught to newly-arrived immigrants at a local settlement house. The settlement's goal was to assimilate these immigrants to American life, so most of the recipes reflect tried-and-true "American" and German-American recipes.

  • The Wisconsin Historical Society website provides a good overview of the Progressive era and how Wisconsinites got involved in the settlement house movement.

  • The Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. If you haven't discovered Betsy Ray and her dear friends Tacy and Tib, what are you waiting for? Lovelace wrote this lightly fictionalized series about growing up in early 20th century Minnesota, and it's just as wonderful as Anne of Green Gables, if not more so.

Dining at Downton

  • Life in Edwardian England by Robert Cecil. A great overview of how King Edward, the ruling class (like the Crawleys), and the working class lived at the beginning of the 20th century.

  • Taste: The Story of Britain through its Cooking by Kate Colquhoun. A fascinating look at what the British ate, from its earliest Roman conquerors to Nigella Lawson.

  • The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes. If you're as obsessed with Downton Abbey as I am, run to the bookstore and purchase this immediately. It's full of pretty pictures of the ladies in their finery and information on the historical context of the show. The book only reviews the first two seasons, but there's a second book on the way!

  • British Food: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History by Colin Spencer. Yet another exploration of the history of British food, with a special section on Mrs. Beeton's book.

General Resources

  • The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker. The Bible of home cooking. It even has its own section on cooking over a fire. Need I say more?

  • The New Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. My uncle, a former chef, gave me this for Christmas, and it's been invaluable. Whenever I need to know what an unfamiliar ingredient is, I turn to this book. It's second in command to Joy.

  • Beard on Bread by James Beard. The bread primer for those interested in baking their own bread. My dad raised me on this book and I've never looked back.

  • The American Pageant: A History of the Republic, AP Edition by David M. Kennedy, Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas A. Bailey. I used this book to teach United States history last year. While it's dense (and according to my students, uses weird metaphors when plain language would do), it provides a solid foundation in American history.

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