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Are you a non-foodie history or rare book buff who wants to find a way to get excited about food? This website might be the thing…I almost like books more than food. However, this collection of historic American cookbooks has got me excited about trying out some historic recipes.

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Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project is a project of Michigan State University libraries. They’ve compiled an online collection of 76 old cookbooks — some dating back to the 18th century — online. Each is browsable by PDF, and most PDFs are downloadable if you want to view them offline.

Of course, adapting old recipes can be challenging, and I found the archaic type in some of the books both fascinating and an impediment. In one book from 1798, my mind kept telling me that I was reading about how to fluff and roaft a Goflin with fweet herbs and fmothering a Fowl in Oyfters. Some of the measurements may have you perplexed as well.

Historic american cookbooks the art of cookery

But browsing this is a fascinating trip through American culinary history. One that took up — and will likely take up more of — my time. I have a beat-up old copy of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook on my shelf that belonged to my mother-in-law. But here is a Fannie Farmer cookbook I never knew existed: Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent (1904). And here’s La Cuisine Française by François Tanty — 1893. That’s about 67 years or so before Julia Child’s iconic Art of French Cooking was published.

Many of the books are delightful to look at as well, such as The Mary Frances cookbook — an illustrated cookbook from 1912, and most cookbooks in the collection are now in the public domain.

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Beware, this website is one that could distract you for hours before you even get around to trying any old recipes. I’d better get off it and go roaft a Goflin!

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