Today's grilled cheese sandwich is connected to ancient cooks who melted cheese on bread. These are found restaurant cookbooks, proprietior's/head chef's memoirs, and granted publication by heirs to restaurant "biographers" and journalists. Also included in this category: Kentucky Derby Pie, Colonel Sander's Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the original (pre U-Bet) chocolate sauce used for Brooklyn egg creams.
1950s meatloaf is connected to ground cooked meat products promoted at the turn of the 20th century, which are, in turn related to ancient Roman minces. TOOLS OF THE TRADE Researching the history of a specific cuisine, recipe, food, or product often requires using a variety of sources to develop a complete and accurate picture.
That depends upon the food and how deep you want to dig. You would soon discover this dish was based on Victorian-era moulded creams which were based on Colonial-era tipsy cakes which were inspired by Renaissance-era trifles. Louis Diat's famous Vichysoisse was a childhood favorite. Of course, the first "real" appearance of any recipe often predates the first occurence of recorded in print by several years. RESTAURANT DISHES Signature recipes from famous restaurants fall into three categories: Selected signature recipes released by the restaurant and/or copyright owners. These recipes circulate freely on the Internet and are easy to find. Some Copy Kat recipe collections are on the Internet. Many beloved Horn & Hardart recipes fall into this category.
Academic references: scholarly research on specific foods, historic foodways, scientific process, etc.
Cook books used in Early America were published in Europe and major urban American centers: New York., Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore.
Recipes in those days were often copied verbatim from one author to another (forget trademark infringement! Please note: many popular cook books through time offer several editions, revisions, publishers, and authors. Is it pocket size (suggests gift, or used in the kitchen) or oversized (suggests student's copy homework).
We would be happy to help you determine an approximate date/identify your cookbook if you are willing to share information outlined above. Manuscript cook books are indeed rare and special finds. As we turn the pages of this very personal piece of history, we wonder: who wrote this book and why? If so, birth year might determine approximate year of this book. 1916 may have been placed there at the time of writing or later. Are the pages supple or brittle, is the ink readable or fading? If items are inserted/attached to the book, do they provide clues? Are the pages in pristine condition or are they stained & sticky? If so, do they depict the recipe (drawing of corn stick pan) or are they doodles, underlines, fanciful recipe headers?
It would also help if you could scan a few sample pages with the popular recipes. Recipe measures Provenance: Where did you find this book? (Old newspapers clippings, corporate cooking brochures, scraps of paper attached with steel pins). Professional appraisers and/or members of the Antiquarian American Booksellers Association are qualified to do this. Order of recipes: is there a table of contents & index?
JSTOR, Dissertation Abstracts, Historical Abstracts, America: History & Life, Sociological Abstracts, Agricola Primary sources: period cookbooks, company brochures, menus, grocers handbooks, diaries, store ledgers, photographs & newspaper ads.