Cooking up the past

In an earlier post, on vintage recipe pamphlets, I talked about how the “history and culture of food fascinates me – especially when it is represented visually”. But, what about the recipes themselves? Stripped down to the essentials, they are just a list of ingredients and directions for making something. What do they say about the history and culture of food? And moreover, what does a “gelatin salad” really taste like?

Before the internet and tools like Pinterest, a home cook’s personal recipes were often organized in recipe boxes or files. The recipes were handwritten on small index cards or were clipped from the local newspaper and filed according to subject.  Like family photo albums, recipe boxes represent a microcosm of a family’s social history.

recipe box
My great aunt’s old recipe box. Photo: C. Hagemoen.

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