In 1864, mid-Civil War, Maria J. Moss created one of the first community cookbooks, The Poetical Cookbook , with the intent to raise money for injured Union soldiers. The Civil War ended in 1865, but the success of this cookbook spawned over 3,000 more like it in the next 50 years. The recipes are unlike anything you might find written in modern cookbooks; there are no precise measurements, beyond a “glass of wine” or “a little “flour”. Each recipe includes an accompanying line or two of poetry. At 100 pages in length, it’s a snapshot of Civil War era cooking in America, especially in the Northeast.

Available as a digital download, in PDF format. 100 pages.

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Here are some of our favorites:


Your rabbits fricaseed and chicken,
With curious choice of dainty picking,
Each night got ready at the Crown,
With port and punch to wash ’em down.

Take two fine white rabbits, and cut them in pieces; blanch them in boiling water, and skim them for one minute; stir a few trimmings of mushrooms in a stewpan over the fire, with a bit of butter, till it begins to fry, then stir in a spoonful of flour; mix into the flour, a little at a time, nearly a quart of good consommé, which set on the fire, and when it boils put the rabbits in, and let them boil gently till done; then put them in another stewpan, and reduce the sauce till nearly as thick as paste; mix in about half a pint of good boiling cream, and when it becomes the thickness of bechamelle sauce in general, squeeze it through the tammy to the rabbits; make it very hot, put in a few mushrooms, the yolk of an egg, a little cream, and then serve it to table.


Is there, then, that o’er his French ragout,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornful view,
On sic a dinner?

Take a rump of beef, cut the meat from the bone, flour and fry it, pour over it a little boiling water, about a pint of small-beer, add a carrot or two, an onion stuck with cloves, some whole pepper, salt, a piece of lemon-peel, a bunch of sweet herbs; let it stew an hour, then add some good gravy; when the meat is tender take it out and strain the sauce; thicken it with a little flour; add a little celery ready boiled, a little ketchup, put in the meat; just simmer it up.


Where so ready all nature its cookery yields,
Macaroni au Parmesan grows in the fields.

Lay fried bread pretty closely round a dish; boil your macaroni in the usual way, and pour it into the dish; smooth it all over, and strew breadcrumbs on it, then a pretty thick layer of grated Parmesan cheese; drop a little melted butter on it, and put it in the oven to brown.