Category Archives: Historical Gastronomy

Explorations in cooking with recipes, ingredients, flavors, and techniques from before 1900.

See also my database of historical recipes, a searchable collection from my research, with notes on trials where relevant. The collection is heavily weighted towards baking, and it may in fact be the world’s largest collection of gingerbread recipes, though I suspect not.


Learning and the immediacy of correction

Comedy in the sense of a happy ending, not because mistakes are always funny. (Image courtesy of The British Library.) I want to follow up on what I said in my previous post about the importance of errors in learning … Continue reading

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Physical skills, intellectual instruction, and the complexities of egg-beating

A few years ago I left off my research into historical gastronomy when it became clear that I was onto an idea bigger than the project could contain — a set of interlocking ideas, really, about craft and the body. … Continue reading

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Shrewsbury cakes

These are not your ordinary cookies. They’re lighter and less sweet than modern cookies, delicately flavored, and made without chemical leavening, in a style that goes back more than 300 years to England (where they were named for the town … Continue reading

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Lemon sponge pie

The lemon sponge pie is simply a lemon custard pie with separately beaten egg whites, and I think it began as an attempt to lighten lemon custard pie — an attempt that failed, but produced something entirely different. When you … Continue reading

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Peanut graham crackers

These are hard but crispy, and they shatter just a bit when you bite into them. They’re undeniably sweet, but they’ve also got a good amount of protein, so think of them as crunchy, long-keeping energy bars. The recipe is … Continue reading

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Zest, wow wow sauce, and William Kitchiner’s magazine of taste

“Magazine” as in powder magazine, that is, not the periodical kind. A personal arsenal of condiments, created by Regency England’s foremost gastronome and noted eccentric. Do not go unarmed into the battle for flavor, men! Continue reading

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Sugar cookies with historical flavor

Sugar cookies can’t be too rich and buttery if you want to roll them, and the really good historical cakes and cookies aren’t cookie-like enough to pass for Santa fare. But we can mine those recipes for flavor ideas. Herewith, some historically plausible (1750-1850) flavorings for your Christmas sugar cookies that will kick them up a little without competing with the gingerbread. […] Continue reading

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A brief history of the sugar cookie

Traditions have a way of growing sadly stale over the years, don’t they? The spirit that once animated them slowly dies, leaving only the dry outer husk of empty actions. Ah, but sometimes we can revive them by looking to the past, by finding the old spirit and sloughing off the dead forms. Sometimes we find that the original form of a tradition not only meant more at the time, but can mean more to us today. Sometimes the past is like a little hope chest, a little… er… hopeful thing. Or other.

This is not one of those times.

No, friends, today we’re going to talk about sugar cookies. Continue reading

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Jumbals

In researching historical baking I’ve ignored some old standards — very old standards, I mean, not like oatmeal cookies — and now that I have a lull in the research I’m picking them off. This month it’s jumbles, or jumbals, … Continue reading

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Ye Olde Worcestershire: Eliza Leslie’s Scotch sauce, 1837

For Christmas dinner I wanted to try something historical — besides the cookies, I mean, and other than a plum pudding, which nearly killed me the one time I tried to eat it after the full-on holiday feast. The centerpiece … Continue reading

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