Receipts, Remedies, and Testimonies

During last couple months of 2012 we acquired some exciting new finds for the History of Food & Drink Collection (though I think almost every item has something interesting about it!). Among them was a small publication from 1893, Household Receipts, published by Joseph Burnett & Co.

Before you even  make it to recipes, you might notice a surprise or two. Although primarily a recipe book, there are subtle and not-so-subtle ads for other Burnett & Co. products throughout, starting with the hair treatment featuring cocaine. Opiates have a long history in home remedies, from treating baldness to headaches to hysteria. (Widespread use of aspirin for pain relief wouldn’t take effect for another 6 or 7 years after this publication and patent medicines to treat all manner of problems were common well into the 20th century.)

The recipes exclusively feature Barnett’s extracts (mostly lemon or vanilla, but also some spices like nutmeg and cinnamon) in the variety of desserts that follow: puddings, pies, cakes, ice creams, preserves, and sauces. One can only assume that Barnett’s extracts were of the high quality so extolled to the “Mistress of the House.” In the spirit of economy (see the publication’s subtitle), there are a number of “mock” recipes that we see many times on this blog. In this case, it’s mock cream pie  and mock green apple pie (made with soda crackers and no fruit–think on that).

Toward the end of the publication, there’s a sudden recurrence of testimonials. And while advertising for other products your company sells in a recipe book makes sense at first, you may need to be careful exactly how you do that. Contemplating pudding sauce recipes is one thing. Contemplating pudding recipes only to be confronted with an unexpected note about the curative powers of “Burnett’s Kallison” in regards to “itching piles” is bound to give any housewife a moment’s pause. Still, it is certainly an attention-grabber…

Advertising in a pamphlet was nothing new by the 1890s. Our edition of Household Receipts in 1893 is already the 14th and we’ve had plenty of other examples on the blog to date. Household management guides and recipes books included ads, hints, and testimonies decades earlier. However, that may be the very point of acquiring items like for our collection: Recipes do not exist in a vacuum. They rely on ingredients, which makes cookbooks ideal for advertising food items. And the increasing 19th century interest in convenience at home makes these recipes books the perfect place to advertise ready-made products for the home or kitchen. Plus, the “how” and “why” of combining advertising and recipes was (and is) ever-changing. Our collection is just beginning to scratch that surface. 

Next week, we’ll look a little more at recipes for some not-so-ready-made “mock” dishes, with the exploration of an early 20th century vegetarian cookbook by a religious organization. (It may even turn into a two-part series, since we have similar cookbook by a different religious organization.) You may want to get your fill of meat before then…

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2 thoughts on “Receipts, Remedies, and Testimonies

  1. I haven’t come across a standard for a “teacup,” sadly. Given the date of publication, I would guess we’re talking somewhere around 6 oz (2/3 of a cup, then) to split the 4 oz-8oz difference. I did also find some modern references to a British teacup equaling 1/3 of a pint (so a little over 5 oz?). Hope that helps! And let me know if you try something!

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