Artifact Corner: Choice Receipts

Hi Everyone and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a cook book from 1875. This book was published in Boston by James R. Osgood and Company. The book is titled Choice Receipts, and as you can see from the picture, it was clearly used pretty heavily. There are a bunch of additional recipes pinned to the pages, and the back of the book has a number of blank pages, which recipes were also written down for future use. The beginning of the book deals with pastries and breakfast foods, which were mostly baked goods. We thought it might be interesting to look at breakfast, and what people ate for their first meal of the day. Let’s learn a bit more about the history of breakfast!

The word breakfast literally means to break the fasting you have done from the previous day, and refers to the first meal of the day. Ancient peoples also ate breakfast, but it wasn’t as hearty an a air as we have in America today. Ancient Egyptians breakfast was usually a simple meal. This would commonly have included bread, along with some fruits, vegetables, or dairy products like cheese or yogurt. Beer and wine were also consumed, although not exclusively during breakfast. The ancient Greeks also had a light meal for the breakfast, which usually consisted of bread or porridge. The ancient Romans were also of the mind that breakfast should be a small meal, usually eating a piece of salted bread with some wine or milk. Most Romans though did not eat breakfast. They believed that there should only be one major meal a day and that was better for your digestive health. The Romans had a small breakfast called the ientaculum in the morning and then a huge meal called the cena around two in the afternoon, then another small meal called the vesperna later on in the night.

Breakfast in the Middle Ages in Europe was also a light affair. The most common breakfast was bread, cheese, and some type of ale. This meal was often enjoyed after morning chores had been completed. In the 15th, 16th, and 17th Centuries, breakfast was a small, simple meal, generally consisting of cold foods, as the cook res were just being lit as the breakfasters were rising. Leftovers, eggs, butter, bread and small beer were commonly taken with breakfast. Building a re and preparing a large meal first thing in the morning was impractical, and so reserved for dinner. In both Europe and America in the 18th Century, the most common breakfast was of porridge made from cornmeal, oats, or even beans. Bread and tea were also common at the breakfast table. The 19th Century saw a more hearty breakfast become the norm. They would have bread and meat, or leftovers, like a slice of cold pie. They also ate porridge, but would accompany that with bacon and eggs. Today, we place a lot of emphasis on breakfast. Here in the US it is considered the most important meal of the day, but that is a very modern concept. For thousands of years, breakfast was a very quick and light meal.

This book has obviously been heavily used and loved, but is still in good condition. The pages have pin holes in them, and have been creased and bent, but this shows how much our family relied on the book for creating the dishes they would enjoy at their table. It is a lovely glimpse into Victorian cooking, and we are so lucky to have it in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by!

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Sunny Morning by MusicLFiles
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