Published Cookbooks

Nowadays, bookshops are full of specialised cookbook which are ngled at specific diets or food types: paleo, vegan, gluten free, etc. Indeed, this was also true of the past, with cookbooks on specific topics like vegetarian cookery, iced desserts, tin-can cookery, or cold meat cookery being published in Britain throughout the nineteenth century and beyond. It is rare for modern cookbooks that don’t have a specialised focus on health to contain separate chapters on food for the ill amongst their other recipes, however. In contrast, chapters on ‘Dishes for the Sick Room’ or ‘Invalid Cookery’ were common amongst British historical cookbooks even in their earliest iterations. Cookbooks printed in the fourteenth century like Thomas Dawson’s The Good Huswife’s Jewell (1585) contained recipes for cures and medicines, and handwritten manuscript cookbooks also frequently had medicinal recipes. Indeed, this was more common than not, and early Scottish cookbooks also contained recipes for medicines. This practice persisted when printing became cheaper and cookbooks became more common and accessible throughout the nineteenth century. Fittingly, the word ‘recipe’ comes from the Latin verb recipere, meaning to take. This highlights the medicinal purposes recipes had before they came to be more inextricably associated with food preparation in the nineteenth century through to the present.

In the GCU collections there are several published cookbooks: cookbooks that came to the institution in a variety of ways throughout time. Some of them were written or owned by teachers at the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science (GWSCDS) throughout its different iterations, and would have been in the school’s library for staff and students alike to read and learn from. Some of them were donated to the archive by ex-students of the school, and some of them simply came to the archive because they were donated by those who found them in lofts or dusty boxes.

Whether they belonged in the school when it was operational or came to the collection later, these cookbooks are valuable resources for understanding trends and habits in cooking, eating, and recipe writing from a time. Of particular interest to the Dishes for the Sickroom project are those cookbooks that had a tangible connection to the school, in that they were owned or written by its students or teachers. The links posts in this page lead to explorations of those cookbooks. I examine similarities and differences in the way they approached invalid recipes, as a way of attempting to understand how food and cooking may have been viewed by these Glaswegian women.

Margaret Black’s Household Cookery and Laundry Work (1882)

The earliest of the cookbooks I will consider was first published in 1882, and it is called Household Cookery and Laundry Work, by Margaret Black (1830-1903). If you have read the page on the reason that Dishes for the Sickroom is based in the GCU collections, you’ll know that Margaret Black taught at the original Glasgow School of…

Margaret Black’s Superior Cookery (1890)

Black’s second cookbook, Superior Cookery, also has a chapter on ‘Sick Room Cookery’, and is interesting to see how her approach changed between the two texts.   As the title suggests, this cookbook was focused on finer food than Black’s previous work. The text opens with a short introduction in which Black writes that she has…

Mary MacKirdy’s Recipes for You, c.1930

Margaret Black and Mary MacKirdy Another cookbook in the GCU collections that is interesting to consider for insight into Glasgow’s invalid recipes is Mary MacKirdy’s Recipes for You, which was published in the 1930s. It is worth noting that there was a personal connection between Black and MacKirdy, as Margaret Black (whose maiden name was MacKirdy) was…