Penn Library Exhibitions

HOUSEHOLD WORDS: Women Write from and for the Kitchen

Trussing Illustrations
from The Delectable Past, 10th ed.
by Esther B. Aresty
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964

Esther B. Aresty wrote The Delectable Past based on her collection of rare cookbooks and household manuals. Like the manuscript presented in this case, the Madisson and Morison Families Manuscript Receipt Book as well as others found throughout her collection, the process of compiling a cookbook is similar whether for personal use or for presentation to a wider public. Both draw on the works of cooks and cookery books which preceded them; some include recipes that are modifications of those found in other collections; some are unchanged from the original.

The inclusion and modifications of the recipes in The Delectable Past are the result of Mrs. Aresty's idiosyncratic vision, literary talent, and culinary experimentation. They are transformed to suit the palates of a contemporary audience. In the tradition of cookbook writing in every historical period, Esther Aresty borrows and alters recipes from the works of other author-cooks in the same manner as women who wrote by hand and kept their own private or family cookbooks. In each book, there are also visual representations and illustrations indicating that "several hands"--past and present--have contributed to its production. The versions differ in several ways: Mrs. Aresty analyzes the historical shifts in cuisine and then reflects on the choices she presents to the reader; the Madisson and Morison Families Manuscript simply presents the recipes, without commentary. The latter also includes many medicinal receipts among its offerings. The Delectable Past, in keeping with its era, completely separates cookery from medicine.

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