10 books like Food in the Civil War Era

By Helen Zoe Veit,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Food in the Civil War Era. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Young Housekeeper's Friend; Or, A Guide to Domestic Economy and Comfort

By Mary Hooker Cornelius,

Book cover of The Young Housekeeper's Friend; Or, A Guide to Domestic Economy and Comfort

We consulted a wide variety of historical cookbooks while writing our book, but one in particular stands out: The Young Housekeeper’s Friend (or as we affectionately call it, YHF), first published in 1846. It is actually mentioned by name more than once in Little Women, so it became our first point of reference for the recipes we wanted to include. YHF was quite popular in its day, and went through several editions–with good reason, as we discovered. Of all the cookbooks we used in our research, the recipes in this one were always the tastiest and most reliable.

Even though by modern standards the recipes are rather vague, she actually gave quite a bit more instruction than other cookbooks of the era, and many of the chapters include an introduction that goes into more detail about the overall theory of how to cook that particular type of food. During the…

The Young Housekeeper's Friend; Or, A Guide to Domestic Economy and Comfort

By Mary Hooker Cornelius,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Young Housekeeper's Friend; Or, A Guide to Domestic Economy and Comfort as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and…


Victorian Cakes

By Caroline B. King,

Book cover of Victorian Cakes: A Reminiscence With Recipes

This delightful memoir/cookbook of a girl and her sisters growing up near Chicago in the late 1800s gives us a glimpse of what kinds of things a middle-class family ate--there were trendy foods back then, just like we have now!

What’s it like? Just imagine if you took all your favorite 19th-century children's books, mashed them all together, and edited out everything except talking about cake. Oh and maybe keep in a few things about fancy outfits and picnics.

Victorian Cakes

By Caroline B. King,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Victorian Cakes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The author recalls her Victorian childhood and shares popular recipes from the 1880s for cakes, doughnuts, pastries, buns, cookies, and desserts


A Domestic Cook Book

By Malinda Russell,

Book cover of A Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen

Until 2000, What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking (1881) was considered the first cookbook authored by a Black American. It was then that historians chanced upon an incredibly lucky finding: a copy of A Domestic Cookbook at the bottom of a box. As far as we know, there’s only ONE copy left of this little 39-page collection of recipes, which was first published in 1866.

Historians and researchers have delved deep into the mystery of author Malinda Russell, but we barely know more than she tells us in her introduction -- a life story laid out in stark, gripping first-person over just two short pages. As a business owner who specialized in pastry, Russell’s book has upended assumptions about 19th-century Black women and African American cuisine. In such a slim volume, she still includes 70+ kinds of cake and comments that “a great many ladies have wished to…

A Domestic Cook Book

By Malinda Russell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Domestic Cook Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

{Size: 15.34 x 23.59 cms} Leather Binding on Spine and Corners with Golden Leaf Printing on round Spine (extra customization on request like complete leather, Golden Screen printing in Front, Color Leather, Colored book etc.) Reprinted in 2021 with the help of original edition published long back [1866]. This book is printed in black & white, sewing binding for longer life, Printed on high quality Paper, re-sized as per Current standards, professionally processed without changing its contents. As these are old books, we processed each page manually and make them readable but in some cases some pages which are blur…


Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts

By Susan Williams,

Book cover of Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts: Dining in Victorian America

If you strive to be a Victorian-era food snob, this is the guidebook. It’s a comprehensive overview of food and cooking customs from the second half of the 19th century, packed with illustrations and tons of fun trivia. (For example: celery was considered a high-status food by the middle class because of its connection to Homer’s Odyssey. If you were looking for a trendy centerpiece, you could put it in specially appointed silver or glass vases like a bouquet of flowers. Haha!) You’ll also find an explanation of mealtimes, and how expectations for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, and supper were different from today’s. There’s a whole chapter on Victorian table etiquette! By the way, Victorians advise that if you’re hosting a dinner party, make sure to wear an outfit that’s “rich in material, but subdued in tone” so you don’t show up any of your guests.

Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts

By Susan Williams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts offers a delightfully flavorful tour of dining in America during the second half of the 19th century. Susan Williams investigates the manners and morals of that era by looking at its eating customs and cooking methods. As she reveals, genteel dining became an increasingly important means of achieving social stability during a period when Americans were facing significant changes on a variety of fronts - social, cultural, intellectual, technological, and demographic.

Focusing on the rapidly expanding middle class, Williams not only examines mealtime rituals, but she looks at the material culture of Victorian dining: the…


The Cooking Gene

By Michael W. Twitty,

Book cover of The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South

I’m a sucker for culinary history books, and this one is an absolute must-read, weaving together both food and race history as it spotlights what is, perhaps, America’s greatest culinary contribution to the world: southern cuisine. Twitty uses his own family’s story to highlight the significant contribution African Americans have made to American cooking, addressing the question of who ‘owns’ soul food, barbeque, and other Southern staples, and how that struggle reflects on race tensions and relations today. 

The Cooking Gene

By Michael W. Twitty,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Cooking Gene as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2018 James Beard Foundation Book of the Year | 2018 James Beard Foundation Book Award Winner inWriting | Nominee for the 2018 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Nonfiction | #75 on The Root100 2018

A renowned culinary historian offers a fresh perspective on our most divisive cultural issue, race, in this illuminating memoir of Southern cuisine and food culture that traces his ancestry—both black and white—through food, from Africa to America and slavery to freedom.

Southern food is integral to the American culinary tradition, yet the question of who "owns" it is one of the most provocative touch points in our…


Much Depends on Dinner

By Margaret Visser,

Book cover of Much Depends on Dinner

This wonderful, engaging book will change the way you think about food. Margaret Visser unpicks an “ordinary meal” in North America, digging beneath the surface of everyday ingredients such as butter, lettuce and chicken to reveal fascinating stories. Visser – who writes with a shrewd and perceptive intelligence - weaves together history, science and social observation to great effect. The ‘ordinary’ meal proves to be no such thing.

Much Depends on Dinner

By Margaret Visser,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Much Depends on Dinner as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An excursion into the origins and background of an ordinary dinner: corn on the cob, chicken with rice, lettuce salad and ice-cream. Tracing the historical, cultural, agricultural and social strands that run through their history, the author presents the reader with an "anthropology of everyday life". This book was the winner of the 1990 Glenfiddich Award for the Food Book of the Year. The author also wrote "The Rituals of Dinner".


The Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson,

Book cover of The Oxford Companion to Food

With entries on foods from Aardvark to Zucchini, this wonderful, wide-ranging reference book has a place of honour by my desk. The idea of a global guide to foodstuffs was conceived of by Alan Davidson in 1976 – before the digital age – and first published in 1999. Davidson, who edited it, brought his intellectual curiosity, knowledge, and humour to the project. The result is a seminal reference book which instead of being dull or stodgy is lively, engaging, and interesting. A book that I never tire of using, as always come across something that catches my attention in the most beguiling way.

The Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Oxford Companion to Food as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

the best food reference work ever to appear in the English language ... read it and be dazzled'
Bee Wilson, New Statesman

First published in 1999, the ground-breaking Oxford Companion to Food was an immediate success and won prizes and accolades around the world. Its blend of serious food history, culinary expertise, and entertaining serendipity, was and remains unique.

Interest in food, cooking, and the culture surrounding food has grown enormously in the intervening period, as has the study of food and food history. University departments, international societies, and academic journals have sprung up dedicated to exploring the meaning of…


The Culture of Food

By Massimo Montanari,

Book cover of The Culture of Food

A really satisfying read for anyone with an appetite for culinary history. Montanari, a medieval historian who teaches at the University of Bologna, describes the evolution of European cuisine as the clash between the wheat-, grape- and olive-based Mediterranean food traditions of the Roman Empire and the beer-, pork- and animal fat-based cooking of the Teutonic tribes that descended from the North. The invaders introduced their foods to Northern Italy, while the monks traveling north to spread the teachings of Christianity carried with them the wheat and grapes essential for celebrating the Eucharist. A slow assimilation ensued.

The Culture of Food

By Massimo Montanari,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Culture of Food as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is about the history of food in Europe and the part it has played in the evolution of the European cultures over two millennia. It has been a driving force in national and imperial ambition, the manner of its production and consumption a means by which the identity and status of regions, classes and individuals have been and still are expressed. In this wide--ranging exploration of its history the author weaves deftly between the classes, regions and nations of Europe, between the habits of late antiquity and the problems of modernity. He examines the interlinked evolutions of consumption,…


Cuisine and Empire

By Rachel Laudan,

Book cover of Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History

I love this book primarily for the ambitiousness of its breadth. It begins thousands of years ago with the role of early grain domestication in empire-building and stretches to the roles of modern cuisines in global trade, industry, and capitalism. Although a whirlwind of peoples and places from across human history, this beautifully written and illustrated book is easy for any reader interested in the subject to digest. 

Cuisine and Empire

By Rachel Laudan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cuisine and Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rachel Laudan tells the remarkable story of the rise and fall of the world's great cuisines from the mastery of grain cooking some twenty thousand years ago, to the present in this superbly researched book. Probing beneath the apparent confusion of dozens of cuisines to reveal the underlying simplicity of the culinary family tree, she shows how periodic seismic shifts in culinary philosophy" beliefs about health, the economy, politics, society and the gods prompted the construction of new cuisines, a handful of which, chosen as the cuisines of empires, came to dominate the globe. Cuisine and Empire shows how merchants,…


The Table Comes First

By Adam Gopnik,

Book cover of The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food

Adam Gopnik’s book, The Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food has it all: essays on the history of restaurants, followed by second on taste, then come the recipes (a stellar one on leg of lamb prepared with bacon and anchovies, saffron and cinnamon), and finally, in Chapter Ten, an essay on wine that is a far cry from the plethora of books on “how to taste.” It calls wine what it is, alcohol, and talks about why it makes us happy. I downloaded this book onto my Kindle a long time ago, and writing about it reminds me to purchase a hard copy of the book in order to place It on my shelf next to Gopnik’s book, Paris to the Moon, written way back in 1995, which is about the year he and his wife and infant son spent in Paris, with great stories…

The Table Comes First

By Adam Gopnik,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Table Comes First as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Never before have we cared so much about food. It preoccupies our popular culture, our fantasies, and even our moralizing—“You still eat meat?” With our top chefs as deities and finest restaurants as places of pilgrimage, we have made food the stuff of secular seeking and transcendence, finding heaven in a mouthful. But have we come any closer to discovering the true meaning of food in our lives?
 
With inimitable charm and learning, Adam Gopnik takes us on a beguiling journey in search of that meaning as he charts America’s recent and rapid evolution from commendably aware eaters to manic,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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