Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book

While I've been having a lousy summer physically, most of my reading has been cosy mysteries or sewing magazines and books. Then a few weekends ago I was able to get to my first yard sale of the season, which shows just how ill I've felt since I love going to yard sales! Not only did I find some nifty sewing notions, I found a great book that I picked up for $2. It is called Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book: What to do and what not to do in cooking by Mrs. Mary J. Lincoln. My copy is a revised edition that was published in 1906 by Little, Brown and Company. The book was originally published in 1883.

I love to read cook books as they are much more interesting than many history books, yet also show the history of our world and what was happening during the time frame of the book's writing. After reading the first few pages of this book, all I could think was why didn't this book get republished in the pre-Y2K preparation? It apparently has been republished in 2010 but to have had this book if the world had come crashing down, would have been  a treasure to have on the reference shelf. Of all the cook books I have ever read, this was the first to actually explain in great detail (everything in this book is explained in great detail) how to get your fire going and how to bake and roast items in your wood stove or if you are really up with the times a coal stove. I had read a lot of books pre-Y2K and never saw one that truly explained how to use the wood stoves that people were buying in preparation. It instructs on how to cook meat in the stove or on top of the stove after telling how to debone it if needed. It has many scientific explanations for everything, although how accurate scientifically they are after 125+ years is questionable. But if you want to know why meat needs seared quickly before putting in on to cook for hours this book will tell you.

You will learn more than you ever wanted to know about wheat and grain and the different ways it is ground and which are the best flours depending on what you will be using it for. Fiber and the wheat bran are condemned roundly as being indigestible and not good for you. I was happy to see that Pillsbury was considered to be a good flour and one that was available back then in Boston. You will learn how to make your own yeast if you don't have a friend or family member to loan you some and then how to keep your yeast growing so that you have it for all your bread making needs.

You will be instructed on saving drippings and meat and poultry fat to make your fat for cooking and if your meat looks like it will be too dry with cooking, how and what to 'lard' it with. How to measure accurately. Cautions to be sure you don't burn yourself on your stove or the pans you are using. How to have extra space for working near your stove--a wooden box is recommended to be drawn up near the stove. While reading you start to feel like you have been transported back in time to a kitchen at it's minimum. It makes you grateful for regular ovens, much less microwave or convection ovens! So many of the tasks that used to fall on women back during the 1880's have disappeared from sight at this point. I can't imagine trying to keep a cook stove going to bake the family bread during our current heat wave, although true to how she wrote, the author suggests that in the summer you might want to do your baking early in the day before it gets too hot. Thank you, but I will buy my bread from the store when it is 80 degrees out.

The book has many recipes and also a glossary of cookery terms used in that day. I love finding little treasures that help me to understand what is being talked about in older books as it is too easy to think a word means something else than what it is being used for.

If you love poking your nose into history by way of cook books, you will want to track down a copy of this book for yourself. I would hope that the republished book has stayed true to the original and weren't updated for today. The charm of reading this book in the first place is it's old time flavor.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let me know your thoughts and ideas!