Take A Bite Tuesday

Let’s take a bite out of Tuesday with a selection of interesting cookbooks that are in the public domain. Yep, free books!  I think everyone “Otter” be reading public domain books, and not just because they are free.

PD books are a glimpse into the literary past of our society.  Sure, now we have bookstores and public libraries and immediate electronic access to more books than ever through said libraries, Overdrive and online book sellers such as Amazon etc.  But, just because we can pull up the latest cozy mystery or best seller in seconds doesn’t make those books inherently better than one written a hundred years ago; not better, just different.

Now, as to cookbooks, Amazon alone has almost 75,000 cookbooks on the site with over 15,000 available RIGHT NOW for your Kindle.  Folks, I don’t think I need a cookbook that quickly and I would wager you don’t either! On the other side of the coin, Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org) has about 45,000 public domain books in all categories.  I didn’t count the cookbooks listed, but there are quite a       few 😉

For today’s post I chose three of the most interesting cookbooks on the site, I hope you like them as well.

suffrage cook book

The Suffrage Cook Book Compiled by Mrs. L. O. Kleber

I thought this was one of the coolest books!  Published in 1915, the introduction states “…a large majority of the sickness that plagues the land is due to improper feeding, and can be prevented by teaching the simple art of cooking…”  Wow, 100 years ago and the connection was made between what/how we eat and health.  Mrs. Kleber also notes it is “…a serious matter what is put into the human stomach…”  It is a serious matter and even in our time we are focused on eating healthy and using better ingredients.  The recipes here are fairly standard for the time period.  They don’t seem all that healthy at first look but if you realize there are no processed foods, just real butter, real milk, real sugar instead of substitutes and produce grown without our ‘modern’ pesticides, this little book ain’t half bad!

The bonus, for me, in this book was the history contained in its list of contributors; notable names such as:  Jane Addams, Harriet Taylor Upton, Lady Constance Lytton and Dr. Anna Howard Shaw.  It does bug me, though, that some of the names listed are as Mrs. something or other.  In particular Mrs. John O. Miller-she did some great things for the Suffrage movement but what the heck was her first name?!  Ah, well, different times, eh.  The cookbook is intriguing nonetheless.


fifty two sunday dinners


Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners by Elizabeth O. Hiller

Published in 1913, this book sold for $1.00!  Quite a change from our modern book prices.  It’s set up in 52 menu sections, or one for every Sunday of the year.  The book is published by the N. K. Fairbank Company.  This is notable because the book is an advertisement for a product called Cottolene. This was an alternative to lard made of cottonseed oil and beef tallow.

Cottolene was a primary competitor of Crisco-which is still around while Cottolene …isn’t… Some of these recipes could be dangerous-calling for raw eggs and sketchy cooking techniques so be careful!

The book is probably more interesting as an historical look back at advertising-we can thank Cottolene and N.K. Fairbanks for really beginning the practice of cookbooks to promote products.  All those Jello and Bake-Off cookbooks we still collect today got their start back in the day with Cottolene.


armours monthly cookbook


Armour’s Monthly Cookbook, A Monthly Magazine of Household Interest

October, 1913 brought another issue of Armour’s Monthly to housewives.  Armour of course was Armour and Company, which you may know as the meat packing company behind Armour hot dogs, Vienna sausages, potted meat and Treet-the cheaper version of Spam.

This magazine is chock full of such gems as:  buy in bulk, don’t waste food and simple desserts are best!  There are tidbits of household hints & tips, recipes for everything including Armour Ham and a section of menus from ladies in every state that were awarded $5 for being economical and nourishing. Hmmm, they don’t mention healthy- I guess that’s why so many of the winners used fried potatoes & corn beef hash!!  Still a great look back at cooking in another era.

I always enjoy a good PD book and I have these three right at the top of my “Otter” read list!  Join me tomorrow when the kids take over for a look at some new releases for YA and middle grade readers.



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    1. Author

      Awwwwww, how sweet!! Thank you!! Your new blog is FABULOUS!! I left you a comment over there.

  1. My mother was a huge collector of cookbooks, and thereby I have learned to appreciate them. The insight into the time and setting of the books is sometimes more fascinating than the actual recipes. Thanks for sharing these… love the covers too. 🙂

    Life With Lorelai

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