These lovely old books are full of recipes, receipts for making this and that - eau de cologne, tooth powder, furniture polish and so on, knitting patterns (written in full) menus, words of consolation... They are a source of information and delight.
At first I really struggled to read some of the writing, but constant and repeated application has meant that now it has become much easier. I still struggle with some words, but generally I can read what has been written.
Each book is, of course, different. One is bound in what I assume to be calf skin, another in stout leather (old bull, perhaps!) with yet a third one in parchment. The remainder are inexpensive notebooks which are somewhat the worse for wear after approximately 150/200 years of use.
They are mostly well thumbed, several have splotches and splashes, they have lived a life, several lives. Now it is my turn to glean what I can from them until they pass to the next custodian.
Just as the books are bound differently, so I feel I am gaining a little more insight into the different kind of lives these women may have led. A Lady of a large house, the cook to a big house, a country parsonage cook, and so forth.
Initially it was a little strange to attempt recipes without much instruction, no staged and beautiful picture of how the finished dish should look, but now I find it is actually quite enjoyable in pretty much the same way that I enjoy cooking with our wood-fired range. It is a peaceful experience.
I'll be posting the occasional dish/cake/bread or biscuit recipe. Nothing special, that is not what I am about and anyway, I don't really enjoy cooking or baking that much.
I will also pass on some of the hints and tips which are jotted down, the methods of cleaning this, or that.
In short, I intend to have fun with this blog. You are welcome to read it but please do ask if you want to copy any of the photographs or text.
This is where I note my efforts as I try to recreate some old recipes. Most are taken from my small collection of handwritten recipe books which date from the late 1700's to around 1922. I also have a collection of old tatty old recipe books, well thumbed and heavily splashed from years of use. I love them all!
The old-fashioned very stylised handwriting writing is sometimes difficult to decipher, measurements and cooking instructions are minimal, no tin sizes given. Luckily I enjoy a challenge. Just to complicate things I cook and bake on my wood-fired Rayburn, which can be... unpredictable.
I suspect this blog is less about the food and more about my passion for these lovely old books and the wonderful women who wrote them.