That Crazy Cookbook Guy — Blast From the Past!


Normally I don’t care much for facsimile editions and generally breeze by them on the shelves, but in this case I couldn’t resist.  I picked this one up at a used book store in Lynchburg, VA Labor Day weekend.  It fit my “must buy” criteria on several points.  The facsimile itself was published in 1963.  It is not only about Texas, it is about Houston, Texas (my hometown).  It has tremendous historical interest.  It is cool.  Of course the twenty-five cent sales have sort of spoiled me, but this was one I just had to have, even at five bucks.

The facsimile is called The First Texas Cookbook.   The original, in 1883, was The Texas Cookbook.   The book was originally put together by the fine ladies of the First Presbyterian Church in Houston.

Yes.  You read that right — A church cookbook fundraiser published in 1883!  The subtitle is “A thorough treatise on the art of cookery.”

I have read that the bays of the gulf coast were once teaming with oyster fishermen … it was a major locally sourced product and even specific fisheries were featured for their special tastes and qualites.  Don’t get me wrong, it still is, but these days the oyster business is more generic and more controlled.  I now have a better understanding of that subculture after leafing through the book.  There are a LOT of oyster recipes.  And, as one would expect in Texas, there are a lot of beef/steak recipes as well.

Like a lot of nineteenth century recipes, they are presented informally with no ingredient list, so a lot is left to the imagination of the reader.  That also means there is room for a lot of recipes … several per page.  Take one recipe (one I might try, BTW) “An Interesting Way to Prepare Beefsteak.”  Basically it is a stuffed/rolled steak.  Season it, spread a thick layer of mashed potatoes, roll it up and skewer it, roast it.  I love it.

The facsimile itself is in mint condition — WITH dust jacket.  The art of the community cookbook was obviously well-established in 1883 … they funded the printing with ads — pages and pages of ads, wonderful ads.  As I browsed through the ads I imagined my great-great grandmother & grandfather walking through downtown Houston shopping on a Saturday afternoon.


Would I prefer an original?  You bet I would!
Will I accept a fifty-two year old facsimile?  Absolutely.


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