The New-York Historical Society Is Sharing Historical Recipes From Its Archives

Knud Winckelmann, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Knud Winckelmann, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 / Knud Winckelmann, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

With stay-at-home orders in effect across the country, many people are cooking now more than ever. If you've already exhausted your favorite cookbooks and recipe websites in quarantine, you can now get culinary inspiration from an unlikely source. As The New York Times reports, the New-York Historical Society has started sharing recipes dating back to the 19th century.

On Tuesday, April 14, the first recipe of the new initiative was sent to subscribers of the historical society's email list. Transcribed from a handwritten cookbook, the lemon cake recipe calls for the juice and peel of one lemon and 2 1/2 tumblers of powdered sugar. (In the 1800s, a tumbler was roughly equivalent to a cup.)

By sharing a new recipe from its archives every week, the N-YHS aims to tap into the home cooking boom that's developed during the COVID-19 crisis. Every piece that's spotlighted comes from the Duane Family Cookbooks, which feature recipes handwritten by Eliza Duane, Mary Wells, and Fanny T. Wells between 1840 and 1874. The "manuscript cookbooks" were used as guides for private chefs, and they better reflected the diets of upper-class households than those of middle-class families. In addition to baked goods like lemon cake and fruit cake, the collection also includes medicinal remedies like a "cholera mixture"—a reminder that our current experience with a pandemic isn't unprecedented.

Navigating a recipe with antiquated or missing conventions isn't as easy as looking one up on a food blog, but it can be a rewarding opportunity to connect with the past. And if the final product doesn't turn out quite as promised, it's still an entertaining way to spend time at home. If you're curious to see what people ate during another time of national hardship, here are some historical recipes from the Great Depression.

[h/t The New York Times]