Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wonders of Modern technology II

The other day my cookbook from 1860 arrived.  It's a little worse for wear but after all it is almost 150 years old (149 as a matter of fact).  The cloth on the spine is hanging by a few threads, but other wise the pages themselves look pretty darn spry.   I've flipped through it, and the 1943 Joy of Cooking, in small savoring bits.  The 1860 cookbook has drawings of "modern" kitchen tools.  Most of them look like some sort of torture device used by an evil baron in one too many B serials.  As I'm flipping through I notice some recipies for jellys and gels.  Nothing out of the  ordinary until I flip to the recipe on how to boil beef bones to extract what you need to make said gelatin.  Then it hit me.  1860 - no Jell-O, no Knox gelatin packages for all your nail strengthening and gel needs.  If you wanted to make a gelatine then you had to work for it.  Which is why it was very much a privilaged dessert.  I can't quite picture ol' Homer going out and boiling up a load of old Bessie's bones to get a gelatine so he and the missus could have a molded dessert. 

Now to be perfectly honest someone DID try to make a set gelatin in 1845 but it didn't um...gel. It wasn't until the late 1800's early 1900's that Jell-O became well...JELL-O

So not only are old cookbooks a glimpse into the eating attitudes of people in that time they also help us to appreciate what we got.  I can tell you I would much rather dump a box of cherry jell-o and add hot water then boil up a load of bones.


  1. I have an old (early 20th century) cookbook of my Mom's. When we were kids we sat around and read recipes to gross ourselves out - we especially loved head cheese.
    I love old magazines (esp Life) for the same reasons - a peek at life "back when".....thanks for bringing back a fun memory!

  2. So, what on earth did people with last names beginning with R-Z bring to pot lucks, if not a jello mold? Certainly ice cream would have melted, even with air-conditioning.

  3. Calves foot jelly? Just, as the book was quick to point out, you want to buy the calves legs with the hair still on, why pay the butcher to remove unsightly hair before boiling when you can do it at home!

  4. Karen I agree with you. When I was going to college at Texas A&M I use to spend more time then I should in the library looking at micro fiche that contained Life Magazines from years back. It's kind of fun to glimpse back at an earlier time, although I'm pretty glad I didn't have to boil calves feet to make gelatin.