“The Virginia Housewife”

Whenever I feel the urge to complain about not having a garbage disposal, I call to mind The Virginia Housewife: Or, Methodical Cook: A Facsimile of an Authentic Early American Cookbook. Written in 1824 by Mary Randolph—the wealthy wife of a Southern plantation owner—the preā€“Civil War cookbook offers recipes that are a lesson in history and household management. Randolph vividly describes the intricate planning it took to create a meal—a gourmet meal—in her refined style. From when to slaughter a turtle (at night in the winter, in the morning during the summer) to where to place your creams in the icehouse to freeze properly, each recipe demonstrates the vast energy and thought required to undertake something as simple as a bowl of ice cream or soup. Never again will I sigh plaintively about having to walk one block to the store for a fresh baguette.

The Virginia Housewife: Or, Methodical Cook: A Facsimile of an Authentic Early American Cookbook, $7.95