How many of us have an old recipe book on the bookcase. It’s probably in a worse for wear condition with the cover falling off and bits of paper sticking out from every angle. It can give you an insight into the lives of your ancestors.
By looking at the recipes it can give you an insight into what foods your ancestors could afford to make and also what they liked to eat. It could also give you an insight into their kitchen as the more complicated the recipe the more kitchen equipment they may have needed so this may indicate they were from a wealthier background. These books can also span the generations as they are passed down from mother to daughter (or father to son). There are at least 5 different handwriting's in one of my family recipe book.
I’m lucky as I have access to my Grandma’s recipe book and my great Grandma’s.
So let’s look at the recipes inside.
Well in the main meals section we find a recipe for a meat mould which is sausage meat and corn beef mixed with a tomato and an egg all mixed together. Then it is steamed for 45 mins. Then there’s a Christmas pate which involves leftover turkey and lots of butter. There is also a terrine made with bacon, veal, port, liver and chicken liver, gross, I’ll just eat the bacon thanks.
The books also packed with recipes for chutneys, soups and pickles. Then it’s my favourite the cake and puddings section - boiled fruit cake my absolute favourite. This section does give a big clue about family life. There are lots of low sugar and diabetic recipes. This indicates someone suffered from diabetes and they did. It also shows how times have changed. There are recipes for jams and curds. I know some people still make them but many do just go to the shops and buy them.
Recipe books can also show regional foods. Now this would be seriously confusing in Grandmas recipe book. She was born and raised in Northamptonshire. He mum was from Cambridgeshire and her grandma was from Lincolnshire. Add into that her dad was from Nottinghamshire and the fact that she and grandpa travelled all over the country before settling in Yorkshire. Your family recipe book may offer better clues as to where their origins lie. One example of regional foods in grandma’s recipe book is for Yorkshire parkin. For those who don’t know it’s a spiced cake made with oats, treacle and ginger. Here’s the recipe, try it’s gorgeous.
If you consider my great Grandma’s recipe book then this too will have a hodge podge of regional recipes. She was born in Sunderland but raised in London. Her mother was from Sunderland but her dad was Scottish.
You may also find some really bizarre recipes. I took to the internet to see what other recipes I could find from peoples recipe books.
How’s this for a delicious recipe, stewed sparrows anyone. This 18th century recipe calls for boiling the sparrows in ale and water. Put 3 egg yolks, verjuice (made from unripe grapes, crab-apples or other sour fruit) cinnamon and ginger and stir. Add the sparrows to the sauce. I think I’ll give that one a miss.
One which maybe you can try next Christmas, picked turkey anyone.
If you try this recipe let me know how bad it is. Picked meat sound disgusting, but I suppose it preserved the meat so it would keep longer and could be used when fresh food stocks were low. It could have kept the entire family going when there was nothing else available.
If you have an old recipe book in the family why not play make a recipe. Just open the book and if you like the ingredients in the recipe on that page, and if you can still get them, make it and see what it’s like. If your ancestors took the time to write it down then maybe it was a family favourite. Who knows maybe it will become a future family favourite to another generation of the family.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!