I am about to embark on a culinary journey. In the midst of my busy senior year, I am going to attempt to cook and/or bake around ten recipes from historic cookbooks. Though ten may not sound particularly ambitious, the process requires finding the books; choosing the recipes; researching their historical and culinary contexts; and converting the measurements, ingredients, and cooking processes into practicable modern terms. With this blog, I will track my progress, my hardships and my triumphs.
People I’ve told about this project have asked if I’m a Julie and Julia fan. The movie based on a blog based on a cookbook seems to be the first thing people associate with ambitious cooking projects. My answer? Not particularly. I didn’t read the book. I saw the movie. I do like the idea. But I am not Lawrence Dei, who watched Julie and Julia every single day for a whole year and blogged about it (http://www.lawrenceandjulieandjulia.com/). I’m a student with a love of all things culinary, an interest in historic foodways, and a Watkinson Rare Books Library CreativeFellow (a student who proposed a unique project using books from the library).
Today I made a list of cookbooks I’d potentially like to use. I decided to limit my scope to cookbooks by American authors. I wanted to start with the Watkinson’s earliest cookbook written and published in America. The earliest American cookbook is not as old as one might think. Americans would have, for many years, relied on cookbooks written and published in England. Still more cookbooks, though published in the US, were written by English authors. Despite the fact that the earliest Watkinson cookbook made in America was published in Philadelphia in 1792 (Richard Brigg’s The New Art of Cookery), it was written by an Englishman and first published in London.
The first cookbook written by an American held by the Watkinson seems to be Eliza Leslie’s 1828 Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats. So, this is where my journey begins. Updates on my examination of this book and my attempts of recipes therein will be forthcoming.
And yes, you can now add another Julia to the Julie and Julia food blog trend.