Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Artifact of the Week – The Home Cook Book, First Edition, 1877

This first edition copy of the Home Cook Book from 1877 is a true piece of Canadian history. Devised by a group of ladies, the publication and sale of the book was highly successful in raising money for the benefit of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Over one hundred and twenty-five thousand copies were sold in its first eight years on the market: a remarkable feat for the Victorian age. As the first Canadian fundraising cookbook and the first Canadian cookbook to be published in foreign countries, the Home Cook Book helped spark a global tradition of compiling and publishing cookbooks to raise money for a good cause.

A brown book with a geometric, diamond pattern across the front. In elaborate script, the words "The Home Cookbook" are written. The spine is worn.
2009.019.002, gift of Len Hills
In accordance with the practices of its day, recipes within the book often lack instructions as it was assumed any well-raised woman would know what to do when it came to mixing cake batter or preserving pickles. Measurements are also not precise, with phrases such as add enough flour or spice to your taste appearing frequently. A slow, moderate or quick oven is requested -this being the only indication of how hot to build the woodstove fire to achieve the correct temperature. Instructions for making cleaning products, beauty products and medications grace the back of the book, while a section in the front provides advice on etiquette, housekeeping and essential kitchen utensils.
This first edition copy of the Home Cook Book was obviously well-loved and belonged to Len Hill’s mother. Mr. Hill remarked that some of his favourite meals were made from recipes found in this book. For more information on Len Hill, see last week's Record-Gazette (Nov. 7, 2013).
A reprint of the Home Cook Book (with an introduction by Elizabeth Driver) is currently published by White Cap Books and is available for purchase from most major book retailers.


Lloyd Paul said...

I have the original cook book hard cover THE HOME COOK BOOK 1877.
The MUSSON BOOK COMPANY, LIMITED TORONTO. compiled by the Ladies of Toronto and chief cities and towns in Ontario.

Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre said...

Neat! Have you tried out any recipes?