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Cookbooks offer a remarkable window into the lives and the worlds of those who created them.

Cookbooks in the Princeton University Library

A Selection of Cookbooks in
the Princeton University Library

The Twentieth Century in the United States and indeed over much of the world was marked by a profound change in where and how most people lived.  In 1900, some ninety percent of the population lived in the country - and only ten percent in an urban world.  A century later, the situation has been reversed, and most people -  that ninety percent again, that large majority lives in an urban setting, while it is only ten percent that now make their homes in the countryside.  Along with the change in circumstance came a profound change in where and how food was acquired in almost every household, especially given that in the same century, mechanical refrigeration and easily managed cookstoves based on gas or electric fuel became almost universally available in the U.S. and in most of the industrialized nations of the world.  Further, advances in transportation made an amazingly broad range of foodstuffs  so widely available almost everywhere that seasons no longer limit what can be made into a family's meals.   In the early twenty-first Century there is even a modest backlash focused on the value of organic, locally grown, and even seasonal foods.  And  "Community Supported Agriculture," or CSAs, are a highly successful model of agricultural economics where farms sell shares in the produce they will grow in that season.    

All of these came with like and also sweeping changes in individual lives and families and communities, and taken together mark a profound shift in how the world goes on.  

Cookbooks in the Princeton University Library  provide multiple small but telling windows onto these changes, taking us into the kitchens and dining rooms and breakfast nooks and picnic grounds of so much of the society.  

In summary:

  • Iconic Cookbooks provides a longitudinal study of 20th century cuisine through a dozen cookbook series.
  • Chef's Table opens the kitchens of some stellar 20th century chefs and cooks
  • Foundation Cookery lists 17th through the 19th century cookbooks that informed and inspired later cuisine.
  • Foodstuffs provides fundamental information on building blocks of many cuisines;
  • African American Cuisine not only provides recipes for luscious foods from the African American tradition, but also details how African Americans used cookbooks as tools to achieve advances in both social and political arenas;
  • Vegetarian Cuisine details one of the characteristic social movements of the twentieth century, based on the premise that "it's weird to eat your friends;"
  • Kitchens of the Faithful provides visits into the kitchens and dining rooms of those from a dozen faith traditions.
  • Regional and Ethnic Tables travels around the U.S. and into the Diaspora of several ethnic groups;
  • Particular Places details foods from historic and other notable places.
  • Historical Framework includes analysis and accounting of how today's cuisine came about.
  • Housekeeping expands the scope from recipes to the circumstance of the home.
  • Other Culinary Libraries lists major culinary collections at other institutions.