NPR segment: Three Ways Cooking Has Changed Over The Last 300 Years


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NPR segment: Three Ways Cooking Has Changed Over The Last 300 Years

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Ago 14, 2013, 9:19 am

The segment discusses, in part, The Unknown Ladies Cookbook.

Editado: Ago 21, 2013, 7:57 am

Great story. In addition to the food we eat changing in size and price and the availability of cheap labor to do our cooking technology has made a difference. Time and temperature oven cooking was published by the American Stove company after they added a bi-metallic coil to the oven damper. For the first time a cook had control of the cooking temperature which transformed cooking to a math problem. If you have this much food and cook it at this temperature how long do you need to cook it?

Ago 20, 2013, 8:05 pm

Oh come on! Do you like your pastry medium, rare or well done? Two pies in the oven together don't take longer to cook than just one. On the other hand, pastry requires a much higher temperature than meringue. It's what you're cooking, not how much, unless you're using a microwave.

The temperature of the oven is important, but people did manage before thermostats - among other things the cook put a piece of paper in the oven and checked what happened to it. It's all to do with skills which are no longer needed.

Technology has certainly made a difference. In the good old days only affluent people with servants indulged in things like soufflés because of the exhausting physical labour involved. Nowadays electric mixers make beating egg whites a doddle. As for blenders and food processors, the latter half of the twentieth century has been nothing less than revolutionary for home cooking. I refer you to that excellent book Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson.

Behind that of course is the supply of electricity to homes, once thought only needed for lighting but now considered essential although there are still people - in this country anyway - who grew up without town power or water. One technology waits upon another...

Ago 30, 2013, 8:00 am

I love using my family's 100-year-old set of dishes because the dinner plates are just the right size, unlike today's dinnerware monstrosities. Even today's silverware is bigger...absurd.

NPR omits the transition to processed foods that are usually devoid of fiber ... how is that a good thing? Ultimately, food is not fun or fashion, food is life. That, of course, is not a popular point of view. As a nutritionist once told me, "No one wants anything to come between themselves and their plate."

Ago 30, 2013, 8:17 am

>3 dajashby: Two pies in the oven together don't take longer to cook than just one.

Not strictly true.

Set 16, 2013, 7:42 pm

I apologize for being a bit of a "johnny come lately" but I've been trying to find a completely different way of eating and I have become amazed at how much of our food is "processed" - to some degree the creativity of cooking is reduced when ingredients are no long simple, IMHO. Also, amazed the extent to which corporations are adding some sweetener to everything we eat. It might not say "sugar" on your ingredients, but if you check the meaning of the words listed there, many times you'll find one more way to say "sugar" or "pretend sugar'.

I am trying to limit my oils to Extra Virgin Olive Oil only, to avoid all milk products, and to eliminate sugar and sweeteners all together; avoid white wheat and rice and products made with them. Emphasis is on vegetables, fruits, eggs, and some meats and fish. Imagine I'm living on a little piece of land and have a good garden, a few chickens, and can go fishing in a nearby body of water. I can buy some meat from a nearby rancher who has cattle who he runs on grasslands. I can go to town and buy Olive Oil, baking soda, salt, pepper, cinnamon, etc.

Any cookbooks come to mind?


Set 17, 2013, 4:08 pm

Almost any properly traditional cookbook ought to take you some of the way. Half of me wants to suggest my two favourite Cape Malay books,
Malay Cooking by Betsie Rood and
Traditional Cookery of the Cape Malays by Hilda Gerber,
but the other half points out that both are out of print and likely to be as rare as hens' teeth in your neck of the woods.

Anyhoo, you may wish to try this Tomato Bredie from Hilda Gerber's book.

In fat braise, until they are brown, 2 large sliced onions but do not let them go black. Add 2 lbs skinned and sliced tomatoes. Parboil the meat in water for a little while. Then only cut it up and add it to the tomatoes. Add a few chillies and a little cayenne pepper as well. Add salt and sugar to taste. {oops! me, Id' leave the sugar out}
It is not usual to parboil the meat. Most women add it raw and make the bredie in the usual way. Some add a few potatoes to tomato bredie and others season it with cloves, garlic and green ginger. All serve it with rice.
{And all simmer the meat and veg for hours somewhere after adding the salt.}

Ah -- just found the vital instruction, 3 pages earlier:
... all Malay bredies are made by heating fat, that is either oil, mutton-fat, ghee or butter, and by braising in it finely sliced onions until they are brown. Meat or fish is then added. It is laid on the onions and gently braised. Lastly the vegetables, suitably cut, are put on the meat. Vegetables and seasonings vary, but chillies are always among the latter. ...

Set 17, 2013, 5:10 pm

Thank you, Hugh. bredy means what? Sounds a lot like a traditional pot roast of my youth, plus some spicy flavors. Yummy.

Set 17, 2013, 5:55 pm

6 > You could always try an old edition of Joy of Cooking. Look for the ones that tell you how to skin a squirrel and have canning instructions.

Set 18, 2013, 2:32 am

#Bredie is a Cape Malay dry-ish stew, generally named for the vegetables. So you get tomato bredie, wortel-bredie (carrot), green-pea bredie, boontjiebredie (French beans), kerrieboontjiebredie (dry beans, with a touch of curry powder) and, if you're VERY lucky, waterblommetjiebredie, made with the flowers of Aponogeton distachyus, which you might get to see in a nearby botanical garden. In the south-western Cape it grows wild in ponds all over the place. A South-African shop will occasionally sell you tinned waterblommetjies at a horrendous price; they're a travesty of the real, fresh thing.

Set 18, 2013, 3:03 am

You could also try
Cook and enjoy it by S.J.A. de Villiers (the touchstone points to the Afrikaans original) or any of the books on cookery -- there are at least 2 -- by C. Louis Leipoldt.

Leipoldt was one of the Characters of South Africa in the early 20th century. His day job was as a qualified medic in Clanwilliam, but he was also a poet, botanist and Cordon Bleu chef. I find I need to read his recipes twice to figure out where they begin and end, then a few more times to work out what's going on -- his writing is discursive.

These you should be able to get from Amazon, or

If you haunt used-book dealers you might also find a copy of Ouma's Cookery Book by Mrs Roy Hendrie. The Ouma (Granny) in the title turns out to be none other than Isie Smuts, whose husband was Gen. J.C. Smuts of WW2 fame.

There are also various extracts of the writings of Hildagonda Duckitt, who was a brilliant cook in Cape Town in about 1902. Grab one if you can.

Best of all of course would be to come to South Africa and haunt used-book stores and especially church bazaars ;-)

Set 18, 2013, 9:09 am


In the course of wandering around this morning, it dawned on me that I should have mentioned
Indian Delights by Zuleikha Mayat and
Cooking the Portuguese way in South Africa by Mimi Jardim -- both AFAIK still in print. By the way: I don't know if the Nandos chain of chicken fastfood places has reached you (they're certainly in London and Melbourne), but Mimi Jardim is the original Nando's ma.

And, while in a bookshop where, to family's surprise, I didn't buy anything!, I saw a new book on Cape Malay cookery that looked quite good, and has a plausible recipe for Tomato Bredie.

Set 18, 2013, 11:04 am

I'm relying heavily on my Thai and Curry cookbooks to give me flavor with fresh, good ingredients, but I don't know if you care for those foods. Also, I've found some great recipes which can be easily adapted to my diet in several of my Italian cookbooks, Red, White and Greens and La Vera Cucina. I'm thinking almost any cookbook which features food from the Mediterranean area or countries with a lot of ocean around them would be good.

Editado: Out 7, 2013, 4:46 pm


Popular newer cookbooks that focus on a more natural way of cooking include Forks over knives cookbook, the Rip Esselstyn bestselling Engine 2 Diet low-fat diet and recipe book, A Kitchen Witch's Cookbook, and The Okinawa Diet Plan. This last title is written by a health research team who base their recipes on the traditional diet of the Okinawans, confirmed by scientific study of their birth certificates and other data to be officially the longest-lived people on Earth.

For a focus on natural desserts, it is necessary to rely on older titles you can purchase online, since they are out of print. These include Sweet and Natural, written by American macrobiotic counselor Meredith McCarty, and my favorite, Naturally Sweet Desserts, written by another macrobiotic counselor, an American who now lives near Melbourne, Australia.

If I had to live on an island with only one cookbook, I would choose the also out-of-print (but available used online) Natural Foods Cookbook: vegetarian dairy-free cuisine. That author, Mary Estella, used to cook at the Kushi Institute in western Massachusetts, a macrobiotic learning center which uses dietary and lifestyle improvements to strengthen health.

Perennially popular natural foods cookbooks that are still in print include The Book of Miso and The Book of Tofu (both include mostly vegetarian but some meat products in their recipes). There is also a larger-sized edition available for The Book of Tofu that contains more information. The Self-Healing Cookbook has sold over 240,000 copies so far. There are also a vast number of cookbooks written by Gary Null, PhD, the noted writer, public speaker, radio host, Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker and health researcher. Here's a list of his titles from Amazon:

Also recently reprinted is a creole cookbook La Cuisine Creole written by Lafcadio Hearn, the American writer who visited Japan in the 19th century and never left. He wrote the book to celebrate the years he lived in New Orleans, before moving to Japan.

Free online are some recipes from Barbara Kingsolver's classic work Animal, vegetable, miracle:

Also free online are some sustainable living recipes from Alisa Smith, whose book Plenty: eating locally on the 100 mile diet was inspired by Barbara Kingsolver's book above. That link is:

For more examples of cookbooks related to sustainable living, please see the Sustainability group here on Librarything.

Then there's natural foods vegan chef Bryant Terry, whose cookbooks Vegan Soul Kitchen and others have creative recipes for natural foods. Bryant was trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. Bryant's website is:

And the Natural Gourmet Institute website is:

Out 7, 2013, 8:30 pm

Wow, that is a very impressive list. I think I'll print it out and use it for several days worth of research, and weeks worth of experiments. Thank you very very much!!!

Jan 17, 2014, 10:02 am

I am currently reading In Small Things Forgotten. not a cookbook but a book on American historical archeology, from the first British colonies forward, and it discusses some interesting changes in the way we eat. In the earliest period meals were prepared in one pot, stews or soups depending on how much was available to toss in. People ate from trenchers, wooded boards with a trough in the center to contain liquids. Two people ate from the same trencher. There were no forks, the first one of them shows up in a 1721 probate inventory of a wealthy merchant. Ceramics were strictly used in dairy operations, not in the kitchen. Then it all started to change.

It is only one chapter in the book but it was very interesting.