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The Cookbook Library: Four Centuries of the Cooks, Writers, and Recipes That Made the Modern Cookbook Hardcover – Apr 2 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (April 2 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520244001
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520244009
  • Product Dimensions: 3.1 x 22.2 x 28.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 Kg
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #196,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Excellent book. Highly recommended! May 21 2012
By Cookpastry - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The book jacket calls The Cookbook Library "a deeply personal labor of love." That this book is indeed a labor of love will quickly become apparent to all who open its pages. It is a beautiful tribute to cookbooks and is hugely informative. The authors own thousands of cookbooks, and I gather this book started out as a pet project to catalog their vast collection. As it turned out, they were generous enough to spend what I'm sure took many years fine-tuning their knowledge and putting it into this volume so that they could share their collection with others.

You can feel the author's love of these books as you read The Cookbook Library, and you can quickly see why they love their cookbooks as much as they do: these old books are charming, funny, and revelatory in equal parts. Reading this book is like walking through a great museum - there are tons of pictures, great captions, and the whole experience provides you with an excellent overview of the history of eating and cookbooks that has led to the oh-so-obsessed foodie culture of today.

You can dig in as deep as you wish by reading the book cover to cover (it is divided into chapters by century, from medieval times through the 19th Century), or you can casually read through the book by enjoying the photos, or skimming the many text boxes on subjects like women's role in the kitchen, mealtimes, foods for fast days, medicine in the home kitchen, etc; or by cooking through the several dozen early recipes.

The recipes are one of the best parts of this book. Original recipes are reproduced, along with adaptations for the modern kitchen, and it is fascinating to see how James Beard Award winner Anne Willan has transformed them for us to use today. Early recipes with baffling instructions such as "use some sugar" (how much?) and "cook it the right way" (which way?) become, under Willan's masterful command, not only clear but also inviting. Making the jump from the original recipes to Willan's adaptations not only assures the reader that he is in the hands of a master, but also teaches us more about how to think intuitively in the kitchen. What a great challenge it would be to try to make the recipes ourselves without reading Willan's modern versions, and to see how well we do!

Aside from being a history of cookbooks, The Cookbook Library feels like an ode to the whole industry of printing that has brought our society so far. In an age of e-this and digital that, I'm glad that I can pick up this beautiful book, feel the weight of its binding, smell the pages... Let's hope that printing is here to stay for many years to come.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Interesting but not mainstream Feb. 15 2013
By I. Darren - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The cookbook has an illustrious past, yet for many centuries such cookbooks were not ordinarily in the reach of the common person. Today cookbooks can act as a historical guide, showing changing culinary tastes and even the migration of different cultures. It is a lot more than just a collection of recipes.

This book is truly a work of love, reflecting the authors love and passion for cookbooks, looking at four centuries of European and early American cuisine through the eyes of the printed word. In more recent times the cookbook has become more democratised, more personalised, more stylised, a transformation from a book of learning and education to often a more coffee-table, lifestyle affair, accessible by the masses rather than just by the master classes.

Technological advances today mean that cookbooks can be something that nobody could have imagined even 100 years ago. Full colour photographs, adventurous layouts and even online resources. Yet the dependence on seasonal produce and the need to preserve ingredients has fallen away thanks to the same technological improvements. The world has became a lot smaller, tastes have changed and on the whole we have a more harmonised, international diet than perhaps people could have ever imagined. Old cookbooks help show the same changes in society, in attitudes, in ingredients and of course in the preparation of food.

This is a heavy-going book due to the sheer mass of information being presented. Yet the authors have done well to make it relatively accessible to the reader. It is a fascinating walk through history and you can really immerse yourself in the book and soon wonder where the time has gone! Many images and reproductions are taken from these old works to help set the scene and provide further illumination. There are even some old recipes, in their original form, should you wish to try and recreate an old recipe or two.

As befitting an academic work, there is a mass of notes and an extensive bibliography at the end of the book. That said, a great balancing act has been reached in making this a comprehensive academic work and a book that the interested amateur can read without any compromise being a necessary evil. Sadly the price of this book will make it unaffordable for many potential interested readers, yet the book does not feel expensive when you consider its unique, quality, informative nature. A lover of history, food and cookery books will find this a treasured, different, valuable addition to their collection. If you are just looking for old recipes or a guide to recreating older dishes then this book is not for you, yet for those interested in food, cooking, history and even sociological change this would be worthy of consideration.
Great read Nov. 16 2013
By Pamela Fawcett - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brilliant. a great study of by gone era and bringing cooking to the front! The old recipes were fantastic and I just had to try them out in the modern day kitchen.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating History of cooks and cooking Jan. 4 2013
By Marie C. Majumdar - Published on
Format: Hardcover
How our tastes evolved over time as seen through the writings of cooks. very interesting - a fun read and fun to dip in and out of different sections of the book.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Historically Delicious Oct. 10 2012
By Bookworm - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is a fun read and very interesting. The recipes are pretty good, but could use a little more explanation. It took another historic cookbook to find a description of verjuice (it is juice made from unripened fruit--less acidic than vinegar). I am using some of the recipes for a themed medieval dinner and am looking forward to hosting damsels and knights!

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