Monday, November 3, 2008

The History of Recipes

Some of the recipe books from my collection

Yesterday I placed some of my recipe books in a pile on the dining table and photographed them. While doing this many memories came flooding back. Oh, I remember; this one was bought in a fundraising project at my son's school. Where did I get this book? Mmm, I muse as I page through another.( I actually love to read recipe books.) And this one? Oh yes, it was given to me as a farewell gift when I left the diamond mines in Namibia. Oh, and here is the latest addition to my collection, “Hunger for freedom” which post you can read about here.

Of course, having a blog is a wonderful vehicle to record my reminiscing and share my recipes with you. As a matter of interest, I popped onto Google and looked up the history of recipes.

It is possible to trace the history of recipes as far back into ancient history, as the Egypt of the Pharaohs. Practically though, these old records were just simple pictorial instructions for food preparation. The oldest recipe found, according to Professor Solomon Katz, is a collection of tablets in ancient Sumerian describing the preparation of bread.

As our culinary historical trip moves to more modern times we have a couple of interesting books which were published in the 1300s : one book entitled `Forme of Cury`, and another, similarly entitled `Curye on Inglish`. The titles are a little misleading though, these books are unconnected to the Indian food that is popular today, but rather accounts of the types of food enjoyed by the rich people of that period.

In the 15th century, knights returning from the crusades brought back many foods and herbs from the Middle-East, including spices such as basil and rosemary. The introduction of these new tastes created a torrent in recipe manuscripts, many of which still exist in private cookery archives. Over the ensuing centuries, the upper-class families of Europe competed with each other to serve up the most extravagant meals, and as a result chefs and their collection of recipes were greatly in demand.

It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that fine cookery and recipe collections became really popular. Mrs Beeton in the UK, and the equally well-known Fannie Farmer in the USA, dedicated years of their lives to collecting, trying out, and recording popular recipes of the day.

With the arrival of the twentieth century, cooking books were in great demand. This was primarily as a result of increased literacy, leisure time and prosperity.

The introduction of television opened up the avenue TV cookery programs and the demand for the accompanying recipe books.

Which brings us to the present day and the internet where you can look up a recipe online!


  1. Jo, another very interesting post -it's always lovely to look through old recipe books, isn't it ?

    I've nominated your blog for an award today - read all about it in my post today :)

  2. Although I haven't commented, I've been enjoying your blog very much. I have passed an award along to you on my blog.

  3. Lynda wow, I am honoured. I will pop onto your blog in a minute. THANKS! Thank you for always popping in - I know how busy you are... Hugs Jo

  4. Hi flmom, I am SO thrilled to "meet" you. Thank you for reading my blog and your kind comment. And THANK YOU for honouring me with an award. WOW! I am overwhelmed. Hugs Jo


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