Saturday, June 10, 2017

Antique Cookbook - White House Cookbook

I first spotted the White House Cook Book a few years back at my favorite antique store.  Unfortunately it was priced outside of my budget, and in the years since I’d only come across copies that were either in terrible condition or priced unreasonably considering the condition.  Then just a couple of weeks ago I found a 1913 edition with the binding mostly intact, for the absolute steal of $17!  I was so excited to start paging through it that I nearly made myself car sick (people who can read in the car amaze me) and I was forced to wait until I arrived home.

Old timey recipes can be endlessly entertaining and occasionally even slightly horrifying.  The White House Cookbook, first published in 1887, has more than just a few gems.   Codfish Balls make an appearance alongside other delights such as Spiced Beef Tongue, Squirrel and Green Turtle Soups (with the option for egg balls for the latter), and Calf’s Head three ways (baked, boiled, or as a “cheese”.)

Fortunately, for every recipe most of couldn’t even imagine preparing yet alone eating, there are dozens of others that pertain to the modern day palate and cook (even if a few tweaks or experimental go-arounds need to made here and there.)  Take for instance that many recipes call for a “teacupful” of rice or raisins, a “coffeecupful” of molasses, or the amount of butter “half the size of an egg”.  How big was the standard teacup back then?  (I would guess ½ a cup with a coffee cup being closer to 1 whole cup.)  And measuring butter by the size of an egg?  That’s tricky because eggs now days are much larger than what chickens produced a century ago.

Antiques cook books also make one appreciate the modern day conveniences most of us take for granted.  When is the last time you appreciated not having to milk a cow to make butter?  Or not having to make a brine to preserve said butter?   Or that you didn’t have to collect warm rain water to make vinegar?  (That last one was a shock to me.  I had no idea!)

There are so many recipes in here that I haven’t the slightest idea which I’ll attempt to a make first.  Between musing about egg sizes and where I could find “brimstone the size of a bean” to make strawberry syrup, I’m just enjoying reading the book!

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