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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Compleat Cook- a 1658 cookbook

I love my Kindle.
One of the nice things about it is that slowly a lot of the public domain material from places like Project Gutenberg is becoming available in Kindle format so I can hit one click buy for free, and turn on my Kindle, open up the connection, and get it in seconds. The weird part is that a lot of it is not being reviewed. So I went to review a cookbook I downloaded and just started really going through in the last couple of days. The cookbook is The Compleat Cook Expertly Prescribing the Most Ready Wayes, Whether Italian, Spanish or French, for Dressing of Flesh and Fish, Ordering Of Sauces or Making of Pastry which was printed in 1658.(Project Gutenberg link to read online or download) The first reviewer said it was from 1658 and you couldn't make the recipes now. I had to disagree and said this..
Yes, the first reviewer is right, this IS a cookbook from 1658. But I don't see that as being a bad thing at all. A lot of the recipes in it are doable now and adaptable. If you are interested in renaissance era cooking at all, it's an invaluable guide and being in Kindle format makes it easy to bookmark things you want to try out later.
It is NOT a step by step cookbook as we are used to now, so it will take a little bit of research to understand what some of the terms are, as well as a decent knowledge of how to cook to be able to do the recipes in it. It will call for "enough flower to make a past" which means enough flour to make a paste/dough, or for cooking in a "quick" oven which means hot. You don't get exact temperatures or times or even exact measurements for a lot of the recipes.
That said, I read some of the recipes to my husband yesterday and he's looking forward to me trying them.
It also has a couple bread recipes in it, and a lot of bread recipes weren't recorded in the middle ages and during the renaissance because it was generally assumed that people knew how to make bread. Which leads to another thing that people miss in older recipes. We are very used to having instant dry yeast available to us, so when we look at older beer or bread recipes that call for a cup of yeast, it's a bit confusing. Yeast at that point was the sourdough yeast culture, a liquid mix of flour and water that had live yeast growing and active in it.
It's free and it's a nice bit of history.
I'll admit, there is something very strange about reading a cookbook that old on something that seems to be science fiction to me still even having one.
You can see all my book reviews here.
Okay..back to beading.

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