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Food Timeline> Cook books

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  • Cookbook Clubs
    The origin & evolution of cookbook clubs (in the UK/USA) begins in the 18th century and is very much alive today. What makes this topic fascinating is research indicates there are 5 distinct definitions of this term, each serving a unique focus and special purpose.

    1. Cook book subscriptions
    ...popular in the 18th century. "Subscribers" were private donors funding the publicaction of the book. They were typically acknowledged in the beginning of the book by having their names printed. Presumably, part of their investment return was a complimentary copy of the book.

    "Subscription lists at the front of books, like this one from Hannah Glasse's Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, named the individuals who contributed to the cost of printing the book. Subscription was a common eighteenth-century strategy for writers to get into print, and some one hundred individuals contributed to the cost of printed books during the century. Prominent names vouched for the quality of the cook and the book. Other books printed by subscription included Vincent La Chapelle's The Modern Cook (1733). In France, subscription publishing was called la maniere d'Angleterre. The first edition of Diderot and Alembert's Encyclopedie in 1751 had four thousand subscribers, despite its high price (1,000 livres)."
    ---The Cookbook Library, Anne Willan with Mark Cherniavsky and Kyri Claflin [University of California Press:Berkeley CA] 2012 (p. 210)

    2. Grocery store encyclopedia promotions
    ...selling sets of books on a modified "installment plan" was popular in post WWII America. Books were typically sold in grocery store and other popular middle-class shopping locations. First volumes (Book 1) were typically free or deep discounted. Subsequent volumes were released on a regular schedule for modest sums. This made purchasing large sets of books affordable for average Americans. Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia was sold this way. Food encyclopedias followed with great success. Think: Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery and Family Circle Illustrated Library of Cooking (1960s-1970s).

    "A week ago, Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery finished up the newspaper, television and radio promotion that began on March 20 to push volume oned of the set of 12 off the shelves of 3,100 Midwest supermarkets. 'The key to the whole continuity book program is to get the consuer hooked on number one,' said Ted Barash, 'and they sold more books than they ever had before...The encyclopedia had already been sold in New England and the New York area but this would be its introduction to the Midwest...The ads as show are (A) the tried and true 'testimonial' approach, (B) what they called the 'heritage' ad, stressing the books' quality that can hold up and be passed on from generation to generation, and (C) 'value.'...Each of the three ads would have a coupon with a different return address so that they could tell which had the greatest pulling power...90 per cent of [consumers] went for the (A) the good old testimonial."
    ---"Advertising: Selling Sets of Encyclopedias," Philip H. Dougherty, New York Times, June 11, 1967 (p. 170)
    [NOTE: This article includes photos of the three ads.]

    3. Book-of-the-Month-Club" special cook book promotions
    ...In 1968/9 the Book-of-the-Month Club promoted five "indispensible cookbooks" for $2.00 a volume. They were: The New York Times Cook Book/Claiborne, Joy of Cooking/Rombauer & Becker, Mastering the Art of French Cooking/Beck, Berthoolle and Child, The Spice Cook Book/Stuckey, Day & Spier, Larousse Gastonomique/Mongagne, translated by Turgeon. Sample ad from Vogue, August 1969

    4. Cooking and Crafts Club, "an arm of the Book of the Month Club" ...In the 1970s, commercial "book clubs" promoting direct sales to consumers flourished. Some major operations expanded sales by offering topical "clubs" to niched demographics.

    "Book-of-the-Month Club Inc. marks its 50th anniversary this year and seems likely to celebrate it with record high earnings...There are over 150 individual book clubs operating in the United States. The company's ability to consistently operate profitably in this specialized are of book selling reflects a high degree of expertise in tapping the market of potential new members...The company's operations have reflected a flexible approach to the introduction of new clubs and the phasing out of others that are slated to fade. The roster of special cluns includes Cooking and Crafts Club, purchased from McCall's in 1971 as the Cookbook Club and expanded three years later to include crafts."
    ---"Investment News & Views: Results Make Good Reading At Book-of-the-Month Club," Frank W. Campanella, Barron's National Business and Financial Weekly, March 8, 1976 (p. 61)

    " members...The smaller clubs include the Cookbook Club, acquired last July."
    ---"Stockholder Meeting Briefs," Wall Street Journal, November 18, 1971 (p. 37)

    "An invitation for everyonewho lobes to cook: The Cookbook Club, a new service of the Book-of-the-Month Club...What a perfect time to gie yourself fresh inspiration and a repertoire of exciting new recipes! With this new introductory offer from The Cookbook Club, you can choose up to $37.95 worth of cookbooks--all for only $1. Then, as a member, you need buy as few as three more Selections or Alternates over rthe next two years...with substantial savings on most cookbooks you choose...For both the experienced homemaker and the novice, books like these can turn cooking into an exciting and creative experience every single day." ---display ad, New York Times, September 16, 1973 (p. 352)

    "Cookbook overkill?...Pat Adrian, director of Cooking and Crafts Club, an arm of the Book of the Month Club with more tha 200,000 members...our members are a mixed bag of adventurous cooks who want help for entertaining."
    ---"More than More Recipes: Cookbook fantasies of Upscale Life Styles," Bernadette Wheeler, Los Angeles Times, December 4, 1986 (p. Q40)

    The Book of the Month Club still sells cookbooks. We find no evidence of a separate Cookbook Club.

    Competing cookbook clubs
    [1972: Southern Living]
    "At last! A cookbook club with home-proven recipes and practical ideas that can win you new praise from family and friends... You'll be cooking better meals than you ever thought possible when you take the colorful new Southern Living Meats Cookbook for only $1.00. Let us prove to you that the finest cooks in the world are actually homemakers like yourself--homemakers who know what delights the appetites of those they love. Each of the 400 marvelous recipes in The Meats Cookbook is from the personal files of Southern Living readers home makers who read the nation's fastest growing modern living magazine. You'll take an exciting culinary tour with their recipes. On page after page, you'll find new and delicious ways to prepare every day meats like ground beef ... extraspecial recipes for sauces and marinades ... secrets of preparing mouth-watering delights for wild game like venison and rabbit. With nearly 30 beautiful, full-color photographs of exciting food dishes, you'll see for yourself how to serve a coach house platter with mushrooms, cold roast beef, sand greens and whole kernel corn ... or lively-tasting lamb chops smothered with peach-strawberry sauce ... or main dish noodle pudding garnished with luncheon meat. And, almost 50 black-and-white photographs show you how to serve such food wonders as city chicken piled high on a bed of peas and rice ... how to stuff veal cutlets with celery ... how to garnish a ham casserole with mashed sweet potatoes. Just imagine how delighted your family and friends will be when they taste these luscious dishes made from recipes that have already earned praise for the Southern Living homemakers who perfected them in their own homes! But The Meats Cookbook is much more than a beautifully illustrated collection of recipes. The home economics experts at Favorite Recipes Press have loaded each book with practical, "how-to" information collected from their years of cooking experience. Their tried-and-true knowledge is yours in cooking . . . tips, charts, substitution guides, definitions, buying and storing hints, and entertaining food ideas for every meal occasion. Yes, The Meats Cookbook is written by the top cooking authorities -- homemakers like yourself and a team of editors who earn their living by sharing their food knowledge with you. The best part of all is that you can have The Meats Cookbook for only $1.00. We'll send it to you with our best wishes for good eating and with no obligation to buy anything else -- ever! Once you see The Meats Cookbook once you see how delighted your family and friends will be with your new menu ideas, we know you'll want other volumes in our Southern Living Cookbook Club ... volumes like The Holiday Cookbook, The Fondue & Buffer Cookbook. The Poultry Cookbook and The Casseroles Cookbook. We'll send you one of these fine cookbooks each month for a 10-day free examination. You may return any book you do not wish -- and for each book you decide to Keep, you pay the low price of $3.95 plus shipping and handling. You do not have any obligation to buy a specific number of books and may cancel your subscription at any time just by sending us a postcard. In any event, The Meats Cookbook is yours forever for only $1.00 plus shipping and handling. To order your Meats Cookbook, just detach and mail the order coupon below."
    ---"As your introduction to the Southern Living Cookbook Club...," Oakland Post [CA], March 9, 1972 (p. 6)

    "In an attempt to help its readers "cut through the clutter" of the 24,000 cookbooks published each year, Gourmet magazine is launching the Gourmet Cookbook Club, which will select one book a month. The magazine's editors will choose books that offer "imaginative insight and delicious results." The club's inaugural selection is Fish Without a Doubt by Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore, which Houghton Mifflin will publish May 21. Gourmet 's June issue, which goes on sale May 20, will announce the selection, and a simultaneous feature will run at Selections will be marked with a Gourmet plate-shaped seal to indicate they are official selections."
    ---"Gourmet Starts Cookbook Club," Publishers Weekly, May 5, 2008 (p. 16)

    5. Culinary discussion groups focused on cook books as a literary genre.
    ...Hosted by private citizens (cook book authors, recipe bloggers) in homes; cooking central to the meeting.

    "While eating inadvertently becomes the focus of many book clubs, there are also those founded with precisely that in mind. Cookbook clubs tend to function like structured, recurring potlucks. Everyone contributes a dish from a title agreed upon in advance; some members buy the book, others check it out of the library, still others get scanned pages via email from fellow members. Between meetings, groups stay connected through social media as they try out recipes. Among those used to documenting and sharing (in the Facebook sense) most every meal, it's the logical extension of the Internet-enabled foodie zeitgeist -- only with a crucial face-to-face component. Through a friend I connected with Steven Wade, 27, a recent graduate of New York University's Food Studies masters program who started a cookbook club last year. "We responded to a need within our group of friends who wanted to cook more, but were unsure how to begin," Mr. Wade said. They agreed to share recipe results on an invite-only Facebook group. Prior to the next meeting, focused on "Edible Brooklyn: The Cookbook" (Sterling Epicure, 2011), I logged on to the group's page and found evidence of feverish cooking. "Tried the steamed buns with Chinese sausage," wrote novice cook Chris Fay, under a photo of deflated dough. "A LOT of work, not a lot of payoff." I cooked dinner from the book -- kale salad and clams with chorizo -- and photographed it. Two people "liked" my photos, and the dinner was great. The meeting, at the Bronx apartment of member Michael Roberts, was like a college seminar, except with sangria. Mr. Wade suspected, based on his results, that the zucchini cake recipe mistakenly called for baking soda instead of baking powder, while Mr. Fay reported he'd gained confidence. "I'm teaching myself how not to be scared in the kitchen," he said. Mr. Wade beamed."
    ---"Off Duty---Eating & Drnking: Recipoe for a Better Book Club--Whe cookbooks are the focus, the benefits of membership are tangible (and tasty), Sophie Brickman, Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2013 (p. D5)

    Recommended reading: learning about historic cookbooks

    Cook book bibliographies

    [NOTE: These books are owned by the Food Timeline library. This is not a comprehensive list. If you need to identify a specific cook book, or books published in a specific place/period, let us know.

    FoodTimeline library owns 2000+ books, hundreds of 20th century USA food company brochures, & dozens of vintage magazines (Good Housekeeping, American Cookery, Ladies Home Journal &c.) We also have ready access to historic magazine, newspaper & academic databases. Service is free and welcomes everyone. Have questions? Ask!

    About culinary research & about copyright

    Research conducted by Lynne Olver, editor The Food Timeline. About this site.
    © Lynne Olver 2014
    12 January 2014