Over the years, I’ve owned some very interesting books. Most of them have been put back into circulation via donation to second hand stores. A very few have been kept in my “library”. These are books that would be difficult to find and replace. Most people would think their contents dated, but I feel they are just as valid today, since we are finding out that sometimes “the old ways are best”.
Almost everyone knows about Reader’s Digest “Back To Basics”, a guide on everything country. You can find a good starting point for buying your own country land to soap-making and basket weaving. Together with Gene Logsdon’s “Practical Skills”, it seems they have everything covered. Practical Skills has excellent instructions for cleaning your own chickens (black and white photos), and thorough instructions for building and maintaining a privy tucked in its 446 pages.
The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook (by Norge, for their appliances) is a wonderful book from the 1950’s, but doesn’t seem like it was updated from the original 1910 printing. Hollandaise sauce was an important skill, as was proper table setting for all those “extra” forks and such. But towards the rear of the book is a wonderful section on canning, drying, smoking, root cellaring, and more. Housekeepers could even have a food dryer of screen racks that hung from the ceiling to catch the heat from the stove (probably wood-burning?)
Stocking Up by the Editors of Organic Gardening and Farming is all about that – stocking up, including harvesting your grains and storage of unmilled grain. My copy was printed in 1973 by the Rhodale Press.
Notes from a Country Kitchen by Jocasta Innes is the one I’ve been pouring through a lot, lately. Breads, pasta, baking, dairy (yogurt and cheeses), curing fish and game, brined and pickled meats, preserves and more. That’s where I caught the notion of keeping and feeding a small piece of unrisen dough as a “starter”.
I have modern cookbooks (including one great volume on bread which was a gift from my oldest son and his wife), but I can leaf through these and wish that I had built the livestock fencing in the picture, or think about all the folks who lived this way their whole life, happily. Each of these books cost from fifty cents to two dollars – they didn’t break the bank. But I couldn’t walk in a thrift shop and pick one off the shelf any day of the week. I found them (or they found me?) over a period of two years. And browsing was half the fun!