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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
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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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