Category Archives: Writing

Old Cookbooks

     Many years ago, I became fascinated with old cookbooks.  At Haslam’s Bookstore in St Petersburg, FL, I found wonderful used cookbooks.  My first treasure was the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, a slightly later version of the classic ring binder that everyone’s mother had, filled with good basic recipes that always (at least ALMOST always!) come out well.  A vast array of the SOUTHERN LIVING cookbooks also tempted me. 

     One of my favorites is THE QUALITY COOK BOOK modern cooking and table service by Dorothy Fitzgerald.  This gem was published in 1932 and has fascinating illustrations.  It also provides instructions on serving, instructions and appropriate uniforms for the maid (!), courses, and, of course, recipes.  (A previous owner was particularly fond of one for Strawberry Parfait.)

     A real treasure was given to me by my mother when I got married.  The Favorite Cook Book A Complete Culinary Encyclopedia,  edited by Mrs. Grace Townsend, was published in 1894 and originally belonged to my great-grandmother.  It was passed to my grandmother, then my mother and now to me.  It is intact, though delicate, and is a delight to go through (albeit with great care).  It includes instructions and recipes for the feeding of invalids, a schedule of when various foods are in season, pages of laundry hints (remember, this was long before Oxy-Clean and dryers!), and other fascinating information, as well as hundreds of recipes for classic dishes.  One of my favorite sections is “Perfumes and Toilet Recipes” and includes a recipe for a Cure for Pimples, how to care for your teeth and ears, and recipes for perfumes and other toiletries.

    I have also acquired facsimile copies of two classics: The Compleat HOUSEWIFE or Accomplished Gentlewoman’s COMPANION by Eliza Smith (16th edition, about 1758) and THE ART OF COOKERY MADE PLAIN AND EASY by Mrs. Glasse (first American edition, 1805).  Both of these books cover a wide range of information, from selecting food to pickling and preserving, and other practical information.  Some of the recipes can be easily adapted today, while others….. well, not so much.  Sometimes I don’t even recognize the ingredients.  Who knew that cubeb was the dried unripened berries from an Asian shrub with a spicy, rather peppery flavor that became popular in Europe in the Middle Ages?      Old cookbooks have much to teach us about how people lived their daily lives,  what they liked to eat, and how they took care of their family’s health.  They open a window to the realities of earlier times.  They are fun to read, and contain a treasure trove of information for historians and novelists, as well as those who like to cook.  Many classics, including Hannah Glasse’s book, are available on-line.  Take a look!  You’ll find something delicious, I’m sure…

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Food In History-What is a “Pupton”?

One of the pleasures of reading history, whether fiction or non-fiction, is learning about the day-to-day living of people in the past.  I am particularly interested in the Georgian era in England, especially the Regency period.  Recently, I was reading a novel, in which a menu for a particular meal was detailed and “a pupton of cherries” caught my attention.  It sounded like some kind of sweet dish, and I wondered what was in it, so I tried to look it up.  Not as easy as I expected!

First of all, I could not find a definition of “pupton.”  Thanks to the miracle of Google books, I found several old cookbooks on-line.  In THE ART OF COOKERY by John Mollard (4th edition published in 1836), I found arecipe for a “Pulpton of Apples” (p. 251) in which quartered apples were stewed until tender, sieved, and mixed with spices, eggs, and breadcrumbs soaked in cream.  This concoction was baked in a buttered mould and served turned out on a dish with sifted sugar over it.   A recipe for a pulpton of apples also appears in the 1802 edition of Mr. Mollard’s cookbook.

Hannah Glasse, whose popular cookbook THE ART OF COOKERY Made Plain and Easy was first published in 1747, and was released in numerous editions until the last in 1843, includes a recipe for a “pupton” of apples as well.  In her version, the fruit was cooked with sugar and only a small amount of water, until the fruit was the consistency of marmalade.  She also combined the cooked fruit pulp with eggs, spices, cream and breadcrumbs, with some butter, baked it and served it on a plate.

Title Page from Hannah Glasse’s Cookbook

Both of these recipes sounded good to me, and I could see how this recipe could be adapted to almost any kind of fruit, including cherries.  However, this was not the end of the pupton! Looking over the tables of contents, I found recipes for savory puptons as well.  These sound remarkably like pate’s and terrines served today, as at least a portion of the fish, meat or poultry component is cut finely with equal portions of suet, then pounded into a paste, called forcemeat.  If used alone, the paste would be seasoned, then it could be rolled into balls and poached in a sauce or fried; it could be put into a bag of some kind (one recipe I found took a chicken, removed all the meat, made the paste, seasoned it, and put it back in the chicken skin) and stewed, or baked.  A fascinating recipe I found in THE LONDON ART OF COOKERY And Housekeepers Complete Assistant by John Farley (4th edition, published in 1787) included a “French Pupton of Pigeons” on page 127.  This recipe took a quantity of forcemeat, made a very thin layer (similar to a pie crust), and then proceeded to layer thin bacon, squabs, asparagus, mushrooms and several other ingredients (a few of which may seem odd in combination today, including cocks’ combs).  This was then topped with another thin layer of forcemeat, like a pie, and baked.  When done, it was to be served in a dish with gravy poured around it. 

Either sweet or savory, the pupton sounds like a wonderful and tasty dish!  I love this kind of detail, as it makes the people of the past come alive.   Food is something we all have in common.

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Filed under History, Jane Austen, thoughts, Writing