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The Old Sturbridge Village Cookbook
3rd Edition
Authentic Early American Recipes for the Modern Kitchen

by Jack Larkin and Deb Friedman


In this charming cookbook, the living history re-enactors at Sturbridge Village took recipes from some of the earliest American cookbooks and recreated them, first using the original methods then converting them to more modern recipes. They included the original recipe as written, followed by both their modern method and hearth cooking versions, making this a multi-level resource—historical reference, basic cookbook (some of the hearth recipes would also be useful for campers), and tool to help you create your own living history experience.

The short introduction discusses early American cooking and eating, and how they were part of a very different way of life. It’s interesting, with insights beyond the obvious, and well worth taking the time to read. For example, the need for American cookbooks when British ones were already available was not just because of differences in available ingredients, it was also because they "assumed that meals would be prepared and brought to the table by servants..." something not so common in America even then, and also something that never would have occurred to me.

The recipes are clearly written and fairly basic, leaving them well within the range of any level home cook. I think the biggest surprise for me was how modern some of them seem. You’d expect to find such things as Meat Pie or Hasty Pudding... but Flavored Vinegars? Cole slaw (admittedly made with butter and vinegar rather than mayonnaise)? Or a recipe I haven’t tried yet named A Most Delicious Salad Sauce which, if you include the optional anchovy sauce, reads like a kind of creamy Caesar salad dressing served up decades before Caesar Cardini created his eponymous specialty.

I haven’t tried a lot of the recipes yet because so many are more suited to cooler weather, but the ones I have tried have been easy and surprisingly flavorful—I’d wrongly assumed they’d be fairly bland. They’re also largely based on pantry standard ingredients, so you can pick one to try on a whim. I’m going to have a lot of fun cooking my way through the rest.

Highly recommended, both as a cookbook and an interesting historical read.

The Book

Three Forks / Globe Pequot Press
April 2009
Trade Paperback
Cooking / American / History
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The Reviewer

Kim Malo
Reviewed 2009
© 2009