The Cookbook Restoration Project

Cookbooks disappear. Except for a notably small number of exceptions, almost every cookbook in the world is out of print, unread, and lost forever after 100 years. They are like passed notes, from one cook to another, intended to inform, to teach, and to demonstrate. Yet all but the most ardent cooks and readers know about these vanished treasures, and fewer still know how to find them. What a shame! We believe you can learn a lot about our relationship with food today by reading about how food was prepared¬†back then. Isn’t interesting that shark, as taboo as it is now, was the subject of a cookbook written by the Bureau of Fisheries, encouraging people to eat more of the predator? Or that just a hundred years ago, Italian food was so unusual in the United States, that cooks had to be instructed what garlic is (and how it’s used)?

The simple way these historic cookbooks are written is striking. Recipes tend to¬†focus entirely on ingredients and techniques, presenting a guide to how to make food by hand, with love, and often with just the simplest of kitchen tools. Shouldn’t this be preserved? We think so. That’s why we’ve started the Cookbook Restoration Project, to recover and digitally format forgotten cookbooks, one by one.