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Cooking Recipes of the Wives and Mothers of our Founding Fathers / Baking Recipes from the Wives and Mothers of our Founding Fathers Review by Nancy Casari Dayton

Baking Recipes from the Wives and Mothers of our Founding Fathers
Robert W. Pelton
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100
West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713

People tell me I'm a good cook. I am definitely a cookbook snob. My known-to-be-technical 1997 edition of Joy of Cooking sits permanently displayed in a stand on my kitchen counter so that I can consult it on an almost daily basis. I do have a small collection of specialty cookbooks (e.g., Indian, Italian, Cookies), but I do not consult them very often. I am excited to add these two volumes to my small collection.

How interesting! These books are at once a collection of recipes and a fascinating peek into colonial life. Robert Pelton shares a good amount of historical information along with the recipes. The recipes come from the wives and mothers, but the biographical information relates to the man of the house: heritage, religion, education, marital information, interesting historical highlights, a quotation, a heroic deed, a little-known fact, and the price paid for signing the Declaration of Independence. Almost all the entries contain pictures of the wife/mother and/or the male historical figure.

There is quite a good variety of recipes in both books. The "Cooking" book contains categories such as griddle cakes, pot pies, poultry and stuffing, soups, and salad dressings. The "Baking" book contains chapters on bread baking, biscuits, rolls, crackers, cakes, cookies, pie crusts, and more. You could sample recipes from these books for several years.

These recipes are the opposite of technical. They tend to be a little vague and may intimidate those who need very precise quantities and directions. For example, some recipes don't specify an exact quantity for flour; the recipe simply states "flour to suit," as for Deborah Franklin's "Spice Cookies" and Mary Williams's "Vanilla Wafers." I suspect many readers would prefer more specific measurements.

There is an interesting appendix that compares old-time measurements with the present-day ones. For example, a "handful" of flour is now � cup, the old "1 wineglass full" is today's � cup, and a "quick" oven should be set to 425 degrees.

There are some unfortunate editing/publishing errors. In the "Cooking" book, there are two pages 122 with a blank page between them that says "Offending Command." In the "Baking" book, the table of contents lists "error" as the page number for the index. There are several such errors scattered throughout both books. If these types of errors offend you, you may be distracted from the books' content. The books can be purchased from The "Cooking" book lists at $24.95, and the "Baking" book lists at $20.95.

If you enjoy a little cooking adventure and don't mind some trial and experimentation, you can have oodles of fun recreating these recipes for and with your family. What a great way to spice up a unit study on colonial America and teach your kids a useful skill. What about throwing a dinner party with a variety of these recipes?

I am looking forward to trying some of the holiday desserts, such as Maria Hopkinson's "Maple Nut Christmas Cookies" and "Christmas Gingersnaps" from Philip Livingston's family. The non-dessert recipes look good too! How about the (Frances) Lewis's "Roasted Chicken Pieces" with the (James) Madisons' "Walnut Stuffing"?

We will surely enjoy making recipes from these books, especially during the cooler weather and holiday season. Pelton points out that all of the signers "suffered monetary losses because of their connection with the cause. Some were brought to the brink of financial ruin, or even worse, abject poverty." They risked being hung. Perhaps in making the recipes I can participate in the spirit of those who were willing to sacrifice for their beliefs.

Product review by Nancy Casari Dayton, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2007