Monday 21 July 2014

Cookbooks to cherish....Part 2, the vintage selection..

As you probably know if you've been to my website, Sugar Moon Brownies, I come from a long line of least back to my 3 x great grandfather. Above is the original auction document, dating from 1880, when my great-great-grandfather Robert Adam Took bought the family bakehouse, shop & restaurant. He had rented it for some years before the sale, so was already established in business. The bakery remained in the family until my grandad decided to change careers in the 1960's and give up the 4am starts...understandable, but I often wish he'd just rented it out again so that our family still owned it! All that had been a bakery right from the 1500s...and still is, of sorts (a well-known chain now..)

I was very close to my grandfather, and I learnt so much from him. Through the years he gave me many of his treasured books and baking equipment...and the rest came to me when he died. He was especially skilled at sugar work (which I am not!) and made his own wedding cake in 1934...
which was probably almost as tall as my tiny grandma! I love to look through the books and paraphernalia that came from him and those before him...they are an insight into another world, and of course they bring him back to me too...
 Can you imagine anyone now making...or paying for...a sugar omnibus?? An amazing piece of history, are these...
 beautiful line drawings of 'fancy ice moulds'....fancy doesn't really start to describe them, by our standards! Both these beauties are contained in this wonderful publication...
one of a series of 6 volumes that I own, they cover every aspect of the subjects...even down to equipping your own bakery and how to price the goods therein!

Grandad loved to collect recipes and wrote many of them down...
 This is from his formal recipe book...he was very neat & you can see, he inscribed it to me the year before he died...
 Remember that these were commercial bakery recipes, hence the huge quantities!
 the book is full of scraps written on envelopes, torn from newspapers and magazines...
 His other notebook is much smaller and scruffier...this was the one at his side in the bakehouse, to refer to and scribble in..

 Stained by age, grease and the heat of the ovens...they are amongst my most prized possessions...
My most special & precious book is very beautiful, even though the binding is showing clearly the fact that it's now 206 years old...
 At the front is a series of very detailed illustrated suggestions for laying out the dessert table...
 a hundred years before 'Downton Abbey'....
 they are an absolute testament to the skill of the cooks and bakers back then...working with rudimentary ovens where the temperature control consisted of moving items further from or closer to the fire...
 and the 'Two Guinea Cake' has mesmerised me from childhood...some poor little kitchenmaid whisking 54 eggs for ten minutes! But's really a historical document now, rather than a cookbook....I am very lucky.
 I have used 'All about Gateaux' many contains great ideas and templates for all sorts of fancy cakes...
 and some brilliant adverts at the back...

 This 1920s beauty is really comprehensive...
 even if I think many of the recipes sound & look rather vile! And I have a good selection of pamphlets and booklets, mainly distributed by various ingredients salesmen...
 Still beautiful, though! The last book I wanted to share with you wasn't my grandfathers, and isn't British at all...although this is the British edition, printed in 1938...
 If you can search out a copy of 'The Country Kitchen'...( you could try here ) are in for a complete treat..
It's mainly a memoir of growing up in the USA in the countryside of the late 19th century...but there are recipes and some hilarious characters, too. It's beautifully written and utterly charming!

So, that's a little look at some of my vintage gems...I hope you've enjoyed it...there are more but I'll save them for another time! There is still nearly a week left to enter my two giveaways (details in the last post) and to do so just leave me a comment after either that one or this...

The afternoon is beautiful...time to grab a cup of coffee and plan the rest of the week! I hope that yours is wonderful and thanks for reading!


  1. What an inspirational heritage your forebears have given you! No wonder your baking is so good. Thank you for showing us some of your vintage treasured books. I am amazed! The books of old are works of art in their own rights, without the often contrived photographic illustrations of today. I love reading old recipes! The wording can throw you for a start.
    I would love to own some of the books that once floated around in my family, but, alas, they somehow disappeared. Still, I do have a few treasured pages written by my Grandmother but that is all. Gosh, I am in awe, truly, of your baking ancestry and book collection!

  2. *love* hand written recipes~ how special! What a wonderful lineage you enjoy. Your grandfather's sugar omnibus is amazing. Thanks for sharing

  3. an extraordinary gift from your ancestors. How many of us will be so lucky to have even one recipe. I don't even know what happend to my mother's recipe book. My brother had it and before he died there was a robbery and everything in his moving van was stolen so many of our family treasures are gone.thank you for sharing your treasuers, they are wonderful. I enough love to taste some of your convections someday.

  4. I just love cookbooks and old ones, although they lack the color and pizzazz of newer publications, are steeped in the times they capture. What was 'in' and what was considered proper. I love them each and all..... what a wonderful gift passed down to you. What a treasure and what loving arms they fell into. xoxo

  5. Old recipe books sure have class.

  6. Dear Rachel, what a lovely post!! Aren't you the luckiest one to have inherited the talent and the treasured recipes and darling books!! I love hearing of your ancestors!! I have a little collection of recipe books that contain my grandmother's and mother's handwritten ones...some from churches done as fundraisers. So charming. Love, hugs to you! ...Sherry xixi

  7. Reading your blogs is always like falling into a new, wonderful world. I love them. And you. XO!

  8. Really loved hearing from you again. What a wonderful family history! I'm always looking for the best ever brownie recipe. Hope it is in your book you are working on!

  9. I enjoyed reading about your family of bakers and
    their history. How wonderful. I also love the old
    cookbooks and the advertisements especially.
    I'm enjoying your posts. Julia

  10. Rachel, just now having time to savor this post and marvel at your family history. It really is too bad that the bakery is no longer in the family, and that your own skills aren't contributing to its legacy. Your vintage book collection is a treasure, I'm sure. Thank you for sharing.

    Sharon in Alabama

  11. Thanks for sharing these Ray, even though Im your sister and am the closest to you, I never knew that any of those books existed, I've never seen any of them was lovely to see them and you are so talented of course...I wish Grandad had done more cooking or baking, I don't remember him ever cooking anything, he was with the water board when i remembered him. Mind you we weren't very close, not like you and him. I would have loved to have tasted some of his lovely confections though Im sure they wouldn't have been as good as love love xxxxxx

  12. Dear Rachel, how fun to see how they used to bake. I have an old (which I used to think was old, but it is NOT over 200 years old!) cookbook that my mother always used. The Settlement Cookbook. it is so simple and straight foreward. I love using it. It's from the 1940's. It too has my stained pages (from splatters) but that only shows it has been loved and used, right? Thanks for sharing your history of baking. You have inspired me to bake something for Sunday dinner today! Thanks! - Barbara from Wolverine Lake, Michigan USA


I love to read what you write! Thanks for visiting! xo