Michigan State University

Cookery and Food Collection

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19th century American Cookbooks

In the 18th century and first decades of the 19th century, American cookbooks were either British reprints or heavily-fashioned to English tastes. The works of Mrs. Rundell, Hannah Glasse, Frederick Nutt and Dr. William Kitchner, for example, are well represented in the collection.

By the mid-19th century a new cookery based on American tastes and food was promoted by Lydia Child, Sarah Hale, Eliza Leslie, and Catherine Beecher. Their books were enormously popular reaching literally millions of American households with food recipes and admonitions to lead clean, healthy, and well-ordered lives.

In the late 19th century American cookery continued to be popular with the work of the Boston Cooking School and its most famous pupil, Fannie Farmer. The Cookery Collection’s greatest strength is probably its 19th century American holdings. All the major cookbook authors are well represented with their works in a number of different editions.

African American Cookbooks

There are over 200 African American cookbooks in the collection dating from the early 19th century to the present. The earliest is a first edition of Robert Roberts, The House Servant’s Directory (1827), the first cookbook written by a Black American and first book on any subject written by a Black American to have been printed by a commercial publisher. Additionally there are charity cookbooks, Black dialect items, and celebrity cookbooks. The collection is complemented by strong holdings in Caribbean cookery and African cookery.

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American Regional and Ethnic Cookbooks

One of the most intriguing aspects of American food culture is the mingling together of diverse ethnic traditions with distinct regional climates and foodstuffs. The result is a unique and fascinating heritage of food and eating. American cookbooks have historically mirrored the influence of foreign cuisines and no more so than today. The Cookery Collection emphasizes collecting in this area and the researcher will find most state, regional, and ethnic cuisines represented here. Whether it’s Southwestern cooking melding Spanish, Mexican, and Native American tastes or Italian American from New York’s Little Italy, one can learn a good deal about America’s history as a land of immigrants through cookbooks.

Church and Charity Cookbooks

Church and Charity cookbooks date their beginnings back to the Civil War. A uniquely American invention, these cookbooks were published inexpensively by churches and charitable organizations to help fund every conceivable cause. Whether a recipe for “Ida’s London Pie” or “Jean’s Jello Supreme”, they provide the researcher with mountains of information on what the vast majority of Americans ate at a particular time and place. Church and Charity cookbooks in MSU’s collection are primarily from Michigan, although other states, regions, and even countries are represented.

Browse Church and Charity Cookbooks in Special Collections

Early Works Cookbooks

here are many cookbooks in the collection that were printed before 1800. The earliest is a 1541 Apicus presumed to be the world's first cookbook author who lived in the first century B.C. Other notable early cookbooks in the collection are Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery (1748), the most famous English cookbook of the 18th century; John Evelyn's Acetaria, A Discourse of Sallets (1699), likely the first work in English devoted exclusively to salads; a 1653 edition of Markham's The English Housewife, "containing the inward and outward virtues which ought to be in a compleat woman...." and several 17th century works by Hannah Woolley, the first female cookbook author. There are also a number of 18th century cookery manuscripts. One of the highlights of the collection is a first edition, second printing of American Cookery (1798) by Amelia Simmons, considered the first true American cookbook. While most of the early works are from the 17th and 18th century, there are facsimiles of medieval cookbooks, including The Forme of Cury, a collection of 196 recipes compiled in 1390.

International Cookbooks

While the collection features practically all the world’s cuisines, emphasis is placed upon African cookery and its influence on the Americas. African cookbooks are primarily from those regions linked to the diasporas of the Americas, in addition to South Africa. Researchers can find a growing number of Afro/Caribbean cookbooks, including many from Cuba. Plans are now underway to build a strong collection of Brazilian cookery.

Jewish/Kosher Cookbooks

Jewish/Kosher cookery is one of the finest examples of food and eating habits as it relates to culture, religion, and migration. Recently an effort was initiated to build a strong representative collection of this important food tradition. In the collection, for example, is the French-Kosher Cookbook, Cooking the Polish Jewish Way, and Chinese Kosher Cookbook. First edition facsimiles of The Jewish Manual (1846), the first Jewish cookery book printed in English, and Jewish Cookery Book (1871), the first book of Jewish cookery published in the United States highlight the collection.

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Little Cookbooks: The Alan and Shirley Brocker Sliker Culinary Collection

Little Cookbooks: The Alan and Shirley Brocker Sliker Culinary Collection contains thousands of food and cookery related publications produced primarily by companies in the United States from the late nineteenth century up to the present. The collection provides a rich resource to study the evolution and history of advertising, food products, individual companies, technology, food preparation, and food production. It was organized, described, and donated in 2005 by Shirley Brocker Sliker, who continues to add items to the collection. In 2006 the Alan and Shirley Brocker Sliker Library Endowment was established to enhance the Sliker Collection through acquisitions, conservation, digitization, and dissemination endeavors.

Browse the Little Cookbooks: The Alan and Shirley Brocker Sliker Ephemera Collection »

Michigan Cookbook Project

The Michigan Cookbooks Project is a pioneering initiative to collect all cookbooks and cookery related materials published in Michigan or produced by Michigan communities, organizations, churches, or individuals. Established in 1998, the collection currently holds over 2,000 cookbooks with a number dating back to the late nineteenth century. It is especially rich in Michigan ethnic and community cookery. Similar to other state wide collecting efforts already underway in Ohio and California, the purpose of the collection is to document the history and culture of food and cookery in Michigan.

Browse Michigan Cookbooks in Special Collections »

Unusual Cookbooks

If you cannot go another day without a taste of “Barney’s Hot Plate Chili,” (Aunt Bea’s Mayberry Cookbook), or “Nixon’s Perfectly Clear Consomme,” (The Watergate Cookbook), you need not go further. The MSU Cookery Collection features a large number of cookbooks which defy standard categorization. There is White Trash Cooking, a cookbook filled with “bad for you” recipes, and one to let you know just what the Ewings were eating when they were not buying another oil field. All contain recipes, but more importantly suggest the ways food is reflective of our culture - the good, the bad, and mostly the humorous.