Food and Memory

Food is the stuff of life. It isn’t always plentiful, but if you ask most people, they have a favorite recipe or two. Memories of beloved dishes last a whole lifetime. Some families and communities love to commemorate cooking so much they create their own recipe books. Although what we consider the “modern cookbook” is a somewhat modern invention – only 300 or so years old – people have been cooking since the discovery of fire. Senet, who was the wife or mother of a senior Ancient Egyptian official, loved her flatbreads so much that their making was painted carefully and in great detail onto the wall of her burial chamber. From the Akkadian Tablets the world gleaned the first written recipes, dating from almost 4,000 years ago. Many families today have beloved “secret” recipes, passed down orally or in writing from mother to daughter or father to son. In the early 20th century, Predominantly Jewish immigrant women were taught to assimilate to American life and customs through cooking courses at “The Settlement” in Milwaukee, Wisconsin .


The Highland Congregational Church Cook Book is a precious treasure to one member of our education staff.

How did your parents cook? How were you taught your favorite dishes? Did your grandmother pass along her tattered copy of the Mastering the Art of French Cooking, or perhaps The Book of Tasty and Healthy Food (Kniga o vkusnoi i zdorovoi pishche)? Is there a treasured hand-written recipe book in Auntie’s cupboard that is held together by rubber bands, or did a faraway family member send along precious recipes on index cards?
As a final thought, what would you consider the quintessential cookbook or guide to preparing the food from your corner of the globe? We here at Troy Historic Village would love to hear from you. We want to hear your stories, and, if you’d like to share a beloved recipe with us, that would be deeply appreciated, too.

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