williamsburg cookbook

Book Two: The Williamsburg Art of Cookery

Apparently an interest in historical cooking runs in the family.

I stole our new book, The Williamsburg Art of Cookery, from my parents’ house last time I was in Ohio. I think they bought it on their honeymoon in Colonial Williamsburg. Otherwise they acquired it during a family trip to Williamsburg over Thanksgiving, back when I was in middle school. Secretly, I like the honeymoon story better–it’s such the perfect trip for my parents, who loved antiquing when they were first married. I can imagine my mom slipping a copy of this cookbook into her stack of history books to buy at a Williamsburg bookstore.

Either way, my parents set a precedent for this project.

This book is a lot like The Little House Cookbook in that it’s a compilation of recipes from historical sources. First published by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in 1938, it brings together recipes from “cookery Books” that would have been found in 18th-century Virginia households, as well as those written on “Scraps of Paper” found among the ephemera of Virginia housewives. Helen Bullock, the author, assures us that many of the recipes have been tested in the taverns of Colonial Williamsburg. So rather than the personal labor of love that was Little House, this cookbook seems deliberately created to serve those devotees of living history.

The best part about the book is Bullock’s attempt to recreate the flavor of those 18th-century recipes. Tongue in cheek, she reminds us that “Heaven sends good Meat, but the Devil sends Cooks.” The book also replicates the creative spelling and capitalization of the 18th century. (It’s fun to decipher those old-fashioned s‘s that look like f‘s.) I feel that slowly but surely, I’m working my way towards those original recipes.

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