You Can Now Read 82 Vintage Cookbooks Online for Free
If you have a nostalgic feeling for recipes of the past, this is your day. The library at Duke University just dug up a massive batch of really, really old cookbooks—and they're all available to read online for free.
Available as a series of free downloads on Duke University's digital repository, this 82-piece collection was curated by The Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture at Duke University's Rubenstein Library. Scrolling through, you can unearth all kinds of charmingly vintage culinary guides: an almanac from 1881, a "Delicious Desserts" cookbook from 1904, an ever-useful "How to Carve" manual from the 1890s. This list—which itself is just a small selection of the library's larger Nicole Di Bona Peterson Advertising Cookbook Collection—includes gems dating all the way back to 1851.
At this point, you may be balking at the sheer amount of pages available—after all, 82 cookbooks is a lot to go through. So if you're looking for a great place to get started, try any of our three favorites below.
We're a huge fan of this one for many reasons, but chiefly that it's, for all intents and purposes, a Roaring Twenties version of Eat This, Not That!
It's easy to forget that healthy eating was an integral part of the social conversation as early as 1929, when this masterpiece was published. Complete with sections on "Attractive and corrective salads," "Vegetables for vitamins and vitality," and "Foods that reduce weight," we think author W. T. Rawleigh laid some serious groundwork for the nutrition experts of today.
Our favorite olde-time wisdom from the health food author? The section titled: "Sunshine: Essential for health." (We couldn't agree more.)
This turn-of-the-century-publication—which we imagine graced kitchen cabinets everywhere beginning in 1899—is exactly what the title would lead you to believe: an entire book on breakfast foods. Covering a range of morning-eating topics, this book, which was published by The American Cereal Company, gives advice on everything from "How to Make Good Coffee," to "A Few Hints on Pudding Making."
Oh, and it also has a section on how best to cook Quaker Oats. That's still relevant today!
This incredibly-titled instructional manual begins with a person epithet: "My old Aunt Samanthy used to say — and my, what a cook she was! — she used to say that getting married without love was like trying to cook without salt."
So, sure, maybe a few things have changed since the beginning of the 20th century when this book was published—but a few odd coincidences still hold true. The writer of this publication, which was put out by Diamond Crystal Salt Co., was named Martha Stuart. (Hmm…that sure sounds eerily similar to Martha Stewart, don't you think?)
And this tome held no shortage of essential knowledge. Apparently, you can use salt for a lot more than we ever learned in Home Economics class: to prevent milk from souring, to bake pancakes "without smoke or odor," and even to prevent moths.
While we can't verify that all of this century-old insight still rings true, we can confirm that flipping through the electronic versions of these books is nothing short of a delicious delight. And if you're looking for some more modern reading, check out these 12 Best Cookbooks for Clean Eating.