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Discovering Historical Gourmet Recipes

A Story circa 1865

A story about historical recipes came across my desk the other day. Now, we tend to think the idea of a foodie is a modern notion. Truth of the matter is gourmet food wasn't always so readily available to the masses.

Now, gourmet baked foods are at our fingertips. Our holiday platters are full of delicious finger foods. But, was it always this way?

Discovering-New-Recipe.jpgDiscovering New Recipes

With a little bit of thought it makes sense our ancestors kept some record of their recipes.

Some of us are lucky as we have our great-great-grandmother's cookbook.

Others of us have to make do with an odd card catalog system of recipe keeping.

Alas, there are a few of us whose mother never needed a recipe book. Either the effort was gallant or bordered on the ridiculous.

If you're going to look for family gourmet recipes you want to look on the East coast first. Logic dictates this, as that's where the New World settlers made their home.

As the Director of Conservation and Preservation at the Historical Society of Philadelphia, Tara O'Brien decided it was time to discover new recipes. (You can read the full story here, from WHYY's Friday Arts. As with a lot of great discoveries she was in an explorer's mode.)

Recipe-Book.jpgRecipe Book

A simple book labeled Recipe Book caught her eye. So she found the cookbook of one Ms. Ellen M. Emlen. Now, Ms. Emlen's cookbook wasn't your everyday boring cookbook. No. Within this cookbook was a table of contents.

I remember from my college days the importance of the table of contents. She must have had time to devote to such a project.

Fast Forward to Today

Most of us know a foodie isn't a gourmet or a gastronome. But, we do understand the cultural significance of food.

If there's any doubt head over to Pinterest, Food Gawker or The Food Network. We're not only sharing our great-grandmother's blueberry pie recipe with our children. We're sharing it with complete strangers.

The traditional holiday roles have shifted as well. It's far more accepted to spend holidays and mealtimes with those outside our familial circle.

And that leads us directly back to Ms. Ellen M. Emlen's cookbook. I sincerely doubt she thought her book would be discussed in 2012. That makes me wonder what the generation of 2212 might think of our online cookbooks.