I do enjoy old books, especially cookbooks, so you can imagine how pleased I was to find The Virginia House-wife by Mary Randolph on a Friends of Library sale shelf, waiting to go home with me. This little gem includes a facsimile of the first edition of Mary’s cookbook as published in 1824, with supplemental material from the 1825 and 1826 editions. Historical notes and commentary by Karen Hess, a culinary historian, which is extremely useful. Being particularly interested in English history, it is fascinating to see recipes typical to 17th and 18th century English cookbooks still in use. Even more fascinating is seeing these recipes amended and adapted based on other culinary influences (French, African Creole, etc.) and ingredients available in the colonies as well as typically English ingredients. An interesting note is the number of vegetables for which she has recipes. Her recipes are organized by food type (i.e. Port, Bee, Vegetables, etc.) so her book is fairly easy to find one’s way around. One rather confusing matter is the inclusion of grains, fruits, desserts and mixed dishes in with vegetables, but the index at the front is very clear so they are easy enough to find. At the end is a section entitled “Dishes for Lent,” making it simple for cooks to find inspiration on what to cook during this religious season of year. This is a delightful little book, and one I will enjoy using as a reference. I may even attempt one or two of Mary’s recipe’s.