Kitchen journals make a family heirloom

Whether you have many cookbooks, like I do in my kitchen, or just a few, you’re a collector of cookbooks. No other cookbook in the world is like your own cookbook, an incredible heirloom to pass down to future generations. What a beautiful treasure. Someday your children or grandchildren can use your cookbook to follow those same recipes, hints and garden secrets.

A little cookbook history

The American tradition of the cookbook dates back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Before that, women kept kitchen journals as a cookbook, a diary and a place to record kitchen notes and homekeeping tips.

Recipes were once knows as "receipts," and the first cookbooks were written by chefs for chefs. At first, only the wealthy had cookbooks. Later, cookbooks were written with the middle class in mind, and they began turning up in more homes. 

The first English women to write cookbooks for the inexperienced housewife and her servants were Elizabeth Roffald, Maria Rundell and Hannah Glasse. Glasse was best known for her 1747 book, "The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy." Unfortunately, her book was full of plagiarized recipes — a very common practice in the 18th century.


Amelia Simmons wrote the first American cookbook, "American Cookery," in 1796. It contained recipes that used American ingredients such as pumpkin, squash and corn.

Cookbook recipes took on a more definite form with the advent of the all-electric kitchen. "The Boston Cooking School Cook Book" by Fannie Merritt Farmer became the bible of the American kitchen. Farmer changed everything by listing for the first time the precise amount of each ingredient at the top of the recipe as well as instructions on how to prepare the dish. We still use this formula today.

Today’s cookbooks

Today, cooking is faster and simpler thanks to Jenny Wood, a dietician in Winona, who published "Recipes for Making Homemade a Little Easier."

"As a working mother of three and owner of a nationally successful business, Jenny’s Country Kitchen, I knew firsthand about today’s pressures and time constraints," Wood says. "So, with this in mind, I created a collection of time-saving recipes that are fast, user-friendly, using more whole grains and being more nutritious and just plain delicious."

Wood’s cookbook is available at Magnolias in Winona, 177 Lafayette St., and at

Recipe-keeper books can help you start your own kitchen cookbook.

"The BoBunny Sugar & Spice recipe binder class kit makes everything nice," says Jodie, a store employee at VIP & Scrapbook Gallery in Rochester, 1300 Salem Road S.W. "This class kit combines a new splendor paper collection in bold colors, delicate florals and dividers to make your adorable 6-by-6 recipe binder."


VIP & Scrapbook Gallery carries many items to get a kitchen journal started, including recipe boxes and many varieties of card stock.

Sandy Erdman is a Winona freelance writer.

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