Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


Two subjects in Literature or permission of the instructor.

Course Description

“In some fundamental sense [reading cookbooks] taught me about active reading, about reading for the ideas at the edge of a narrative as well as those in the centre. It showed me that books can mean more than they intend. It started me looking for the importance embedded in the apparently trivial and unregarded, the things a culture takes for granted.” 
– Nicola Humble, Culinary Pleasures: Cookbooks and the Transformation of British Food

“The extent to which we take everyday objects for granted is the precise extent to which they govern and inform our lives.” 
– Margaret Visser, Much Depends on Dinner

Iron chefs and home cooks; molecular gastronomy and farm-to-table dining; grain-based and protein-based diets: a time traveler from the future would learn a lot about us from our cookbooks, blogs, and Food Network. When we visit the past through cookbooks, we too learn about the worlds that produced such strange and quirky dishes as Tartes of Flesh and Gooseberry Fools. We learn about what foodstuffs and technologies were available and when; about how religious and nutritional concerns dictated what was eaten and how it was cooked; about who was doing the cooking and who was writing the recipes; about the gender dynamics of culinary writing and performances.

Primary Sources

Obviously, we can’t read all the following cookbooks cover to cover, so we’ll be focusing, rather, on selected chapters and recipes. All the books, except for the 20th-21st century ones, are available online, in reprints, and/or in free ebook editions.

Pegge, Samuel. The Forme of Cury: A Roll of Ancient English Cookery Compiled, about A.D. 1390. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012. ISBN: 9781470074852. [Preview with Google Books]

Plat, Hugh. Delightes for Ladies to Adorn their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distillatories: with Beauties, Banquets, Perfumes and Waters. EEBO Editions, ProQuest, 2010. ISBN: 9781171310464.

Markham, Gervase. The English Housewife. Edited by Michael R. Best. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1994. ISBN: 9780773511033. [Preview with Google Books]

May, Robert. The Accomplisht Cook: or the Art & Mystery of Cookery. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015. ISBN: 9781516986583.

Glasse, Hannah. The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy: The Revolutionary 1805 Classic. Reprint edition. Dover Publications, 2015. ISBN: 9780486795768. [Preview with Google Books]

Acton, Eliza. Modern Cookery for Private Families. Quadrille Publishing, 2011. ISBN: 9781844009596. [Preview with Google Books]

Soyer, Alexis Benoît. Charitable Cookery; or, The Poor Man’s Regenerator. Nabu Press, 2014. ISBN: 9781293760000. [Preview with Google Books]

Francatelli, Charles Elmé. A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes. Reprint edition. The History Press, 2011. ISBN: 9780752459059.

Beeton, Isabella. Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. Edited by Nicola Humble. Abridged edition. Oxford World’s Classics, 2008. ISBN: 9780199536337. [Preview with Google Books]

Kenney-Herbert, Wyvern. Culinary Jottings for Madras. Facsimile edition. Prospect Books, 2007. ISBN: 9781903018538. [Preview with Google Books]

White, Florence. Good Things in England: A Practical Cookery Book for Everyday Use. Persephone Books Ltd., 1999. ISBN: 9781903155004.

David, Elizabeth. A Book of Mediterranean Food. 2nd edition. New York Review Books, 2002. ISBN: 9781590170038. [Preview with Google Books]

Grigson, Jane. English Food. 4th edition. Penguin UK, 1998. ISBN: 9780140273243.

Lawson, Nigella. How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002. ISBN: 9780471257509.

Fearnley-Whittingstall, Hugh. The River Cottage Cookbook. Ten Speed Press, 2008. ISBN: 9781580089098.

Required Secondary Sources

Colquhoun, Kate. Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking. Bloomsbury, 2007. ISBN: 9781596914100. [Preview with Google Books]

Essays in the Readings section


Essays & Assignments:

  • Five essays on various topics
  • Class presentations on cookbooks & recipes
  • Optional (but much appreciated): preparation of selected historic recipes

Your final grade will be determined roughly as follows:



Written work


Class presentations


Class participation


Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2017
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples
Presentation Assignments with Examples