The Palmer House: A Hotel and A Cookbook

The Palmer House Cook Book: 1044 Original Recipes for Home Use is a new acquisition to Special Collections. Our copy is signed by the author and makes for an interesting addition to the collection, for more reasons than that. As it turns out, the hotel at which the author/chef worked has an exciting past. Built in 1871, The Palmer opened on September 26th. It burned down down it the Great Chicago Fire 13 days later. Potter Palmer, not to be deterred, rebuilt it. The Palmer House Hotel was completed in 1875.  Between 1923 and 1925, it was rebuilt on the same site to increase the size. More recently, between 2007 and 2009, it was completed renovated again.

Published in 1940, when Amiet had already spent 15 years at the famous hotel, the book offers a large range of recipes. Amiet adapted traditional American and European recipes for home use. Presentation figures heavily, as some of the above photographs suggest. Sample pages include some rather eye-catching photographs and the recipes that go along with them. There are plenty to choose from, but since The Palmer House Cook Book itself is structured around recipes and meals, we’ve tried to share something from each course. As it turns out, we aren’t the only blog to talk about this book recently, though! If you’d like to see a few more images and another perspective, check out this Cookbook of the Day post from January.

The Palmer House Cook Book is a good reminder about why we’re collecting culinary history in Special Collections. The book and the recipes it contains contribute to the larger picture of cooking. The idea of bring professional and restaurant quality dishes into the home in 1940 wasn’t brand new. The concept would become increasingly influential after World War II, however, as entertaining became a new focus of home dining. The unique history of the hotel that inspired the cookbook, too, plays a role. The Culinary History Collection isn’t just about recipes–it’s about how customs and social history changed over time and the role food has played (and continues to play) in those changes. Every cook book in our collection tells another little part of that story.

…Plus, sometimes you just come across a recipe and image demanding to be shared. “Peaches Forest King,” anyone?

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