Book Review Mrs. Owen’s Cookbook (1883)

1883 version of Mrs. Owen's Cokbook and Helpful Household HInts
1883 version of Mrs. Owen’s Cookbook and Helpful Household Hints

Book Review: Mrs. Owens’ Cookbook And Useful Household Hints … By Mrs. F.E. Owens Published: Chicago: Owens publishing company [etc.], 1883.

This antique cookbook has become a go-to reference in our kitchen. While some of the information is dated, like her recipe for a great whitewash to paint the kitchen floor that includes three pounds of white lead, there is a lot of great advice for approaching food “the old-fashioned way.”

Living in a world where many people think that food comes from a grocery store, rather than being distributed by the grocery store, many of the skills required to prepare whole foods has been lost. One of the ways to regain that knowledge is to read old cookbooks that worked with less technology.

Be assured that the recipes are not presented in a way to which most of us would be accustomed. Many do not use specific measures, but discuss things in terms of technique. For example, when she writes about making certain kinds of soup, she calls for frying the vegetables in hot lard before adding the stock or water. Two things are happening here: 1. The vegetables are getting caramelized, bringing out the sweetness, and 2. a little lard in the soup helps create a silky texture.

I saw a copy similar to mine (but a bit less beat-up looking) available on eBay for $15.00. If you want to check out what is in the book, most of it is available online at Chest of Books.


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