This year, many households will be cooking heirloom recipes for the holidays that have been handed down from generation to generation. Some of these recipes may date back a hundred years or more. Most kitchens have an old recipe card box or cook book that is adored by the family . But how did the recipes for our most cherished dishes originate?
Recipes date back thousands of years. According to the World Wide Words Association, the first written form of recipes occurred during the Medieval times in England, usually as a formula or prescription for medicinal purposes. It was called a “receipt” and the first word usually listed on it was “recipe”. These two words would become interchangeable until the word “receipt” for a culinary dish started fading out in the eighteenth century.
In the nineteenth century, recipes were often still memorized. According to Bev Learned, an archive librarian with experience in old recipes, many of the recipes of the era included the following commonalities. The food ingredients used were often meat products that were raised in the area, vegetables and fruits that were in season, and staples such as sugar and flour that one could purchase from the merchant. Measurements were also based on the utensils available in the common kitchen. Standard measurements were not commonplace.
By carefully doing some research, vintage recipes can be converted to standard ingredients and measurements, and still be enjoyed. For a list of converted vintage recipe measurements, refer to this chart on heirloom measurements from About.com.