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Reading a Recipe

Step 1 of 3: Look at the recipe.

In colonial times, a recipe book was kept by the mistress of the household. It was her guide to cookery as well as her treasury of family recipes. Most women did not own a printed cookbook such as the ones we see today. Cookbooks were expensive and of limited availability. When a young woman left her home to be married, she would copy her mother's recipes to take with her.

This recipe is from a collection started by Isabella Morris Ashfield (1705-1741). The collection was passed on to her daughter-in-law Elizabeth (1729-1762). These recipes are usually for large social family or ceremonial gatherings such as weddings. (See the complete lesson plan, from our American Stories curriculum.)

Ashfield's Recipe

Larger view of recipe
(pop-up window)

Look closely at the recipe page. What clues show that this recipe page might have come from a long time ago?

How does this recipe page look compared to recipes today? Give examples.

What might these non-exact measurements tell us about the cook?

How would you find a specific recipe in this book?

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