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Contribution to Book
Cooking in America 1840 – 1945
University Libraries Librarian and Staff Books and Book Chapters
  • Alice McLean, University of the Pacific
  • Lisa Cooperman, University of the Pacific
Document Type
Contribution to Book

This cookbook covers the years 1840 through 1945, a time during which American cookery underwent a full-scale revolution. Gas and electric stoves replaced hearth cookery. Milk products came from commercial dairy farms rather than the family cow. Daily meals were no longer bound by seasons and regions, as canned, bottled, and eventually frozen products flooded the market and trains began to transport produce and meat from one end of the country to the other. During two World Wars and the Great Depression women entered the work force in unprecedented numbers and household servants abandoned low-paying domestic jobs to work in factories. As a result of these monumental changes, American home cooking became irrevocably simplified and cookery skills geared more toward juggling time to comb grocery store shelves for the best and most economical products than toward butchering and preserving an entire animal carcass or pickling fruits and vegetables.

This cookbook reflects these changes, with each of the three chapters capturing the home cooking that typified the era. The first chapter covers the pre-industrial period 1840 to 1875; during this time, home cooks knew how to broil, roast, grill, fry, and boil on an open hearth flame and its embers without getting severely injured. They also handled whole sheep carcasses, made gelatin from boiled pigs trotters, grew their own yeast, and prepared their own preserves. The second chapter covers 1876 through 1910, a time when rapid urbanization transformed the United States from an agrarian society into an industrial giant, giving rise to food corporations such as Armour, Swift, Campbell's, Heinz, and Pillsbury. The mass production and mass marketing of commercial foods began to transform home cooking; meat could be purchased from a local butcher or grocery store and commercial gelatin became widely available. While many cooks still made their own pickles and preserves, commercial varieties multiplied. From 1910 to 1945, the period covered by Chapter 3, the home cook became a full-fledged consumer and the national food supply became standardized to a large extent. As the industrialization of the American food supply progressed, commercially produced breads, pastries, sauces, pickles, and preserves began to take over kitchen cupboards and undermine the home cooks' ability to produce their own meals from scratch. The recipes have been culled from some of the most popular commercial and community cookbooks of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Taken together, the more than 300 recipes reflect the major cookbook trends of the era. Suggested menus are provided for replicating entire meals.

Illustrations by Lisa Cooperman, University of the Pacific

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Citation Information
Alice McLean and Lisa Cooperman. "Cooking in America 1840 – 1945" Westport, CT(2006)
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