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Food History at the Rubenstein Library

Manuscript Cookbooks

Related Bingham Center Research Guides

Prescriptive Literature

Prescriptive literature, whose target audience was mainly women and girls, provided advice on matters of both the domestic and public spheres including grocery shopping, cooking, health, and diet. The Bingham Center collections contain prescriptive literature dating from the seventeenth through twenty-first centuries. Publications are largely British and American in origin. The list below, which seeks to highlight sources that touch upon food-related topics, is but a small portion of the Bingham Center's collection. A comprehensive guide of our prescriptive literature holdings can be found here.

  • Martha Bradley, The British Housewife, 1756
    • This is a facsimile reprint of a compendium of cookery, gardening, animal husbandry and general household medicine. Among its features are descriptions of foods bought - spices, sugar, anchovies, olives, soy sauce - as well as foods grown or cooked. Other hints about marketing - buying fish, for instance - are more detailed than in many other manuals of the period, and there are lists of specific varieties of fruits as they are ready for the table.
  • Mrs. Smith, The Female Economist, 1810
    • This cookery book “[furnishes] the young housekeeper with a considerable number of receipts…; [points] out the best method of preparing those things which are frequently wanted in a family; and [enables] her to render them agreeable to the palate, consistently with the rules of economy and frugality.”
  • John Trusler, The Honours of the Table, 1811
    • Not only contains rules of dining etiquette, but also includes helpful tips and tricks for going to market to buy fresh produce, meats, and fishes.
  • All About Everything, c.1871
    • This impressive volume is a comprehensive guide to every aspect of household management, including the specific duties of servants.
  • Maud Cooke, Three Meals a Day, c.1902
    • "The responsibility of the cook, who sees in her work not only food for the body, but inspiration for the mind, becomes weighty and far-reaching in its possibilities."
  • The Little Girl's Sweet Book, c.1910
    • This book combines narrative, recipes, and charming illustrations to show girls how to make candy: “Grown-up people usually like [peppermint creams], so I expect Father and Mother would enjoy them. And you want everybody to enjoy some of your sweets, don’t you?”
  • Sarah Field Splint, Time-Saving Cookery, 1925
    • “A woman must take short-cuts to those necessary ‘three-meals-a-day’ if she wants time to enjoy friends, books, music and clubs, an occasional motor-ride, an hour or two in the open.”
  • Shirley W. Wynne, Slimming Safely, c.1920s
    • "This little booklet will help you select foods properly. It contains helpful suggestions, 18 days of reducing menus, height-weight tables for men and women, a calory [sic] list, and other aids to safe, sensible weight control. Carry the booklet with you in your purse or pocket; consult it at mealtimes."
  • Mabel Claire, Macy's Cook Book for Busy Women, c.1932
    • Believing that "the modern woman's time may be spent more profitably than in hours of pot-watching," Claire offers recipes for quick meals, advice on kitchen decorating and furnishing, and tips on using modern kitchen conveniences.
  • Grace Stockwell, Change Your Weight for Beauty's Sake, c.1945
    • Discusses dieting, exercise, weight reduction, and weight-gain: “Angularity is as great an enemy to beauty as an overstuffed look.”
  • Betty Crocker, Betty Crocker's Dinner for Two Cookbook, c.1958
    • “Dinner-in-a-Hurry can be sparkling, varied, as delicious as if you had spent all afternoon in the kitchen.” Crocker suggests using “the frozen, refrigerated, and canned foods, the Brown n’ Serve Rolls [and] the packaged mixes” to save time when preparing meals.
  • Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart Living [serial], 1996
    • Stewart’s magazine showcases the possibility of perfection in the domestic arts. An article on making pies for Thanksgiving advises, “It is possible to master pastry. Simply focus on your goal – a flaky light satisfying crust – as you work.”