Your characters are dressed in the latest fashions, they're moving in a world of politics and intrigue, walking through the halls of grand architecture or escaping stifling hovels, they dance with abandon. But they sit down to eat a sumptuous feast or a meager breakfast and you don't know what the king ate, or the jester drooled over. My husband asks periodically just why I have so many cookbooks when I don't cook that much. My first stop at a used bookstore is either the travel section or the cookbooks. Some I pick up in the countries I've visited. Historical sites often have reproductions and my husband rolls his eyes. I could look it up on the Internet sure, but when the Horizon Cookbook and Illustrated history of eating and drinking through the ages is on the shelf why would you. I still have to resort to it when the country or era is more obscure, but for menus, recipes, and the history behind all the times it does cover, its answered most of the questions I've had. As long as it’s covered.
Then again I can always fall back on Chocolate cooking with the world's best ingredient an entire book on you guessed it just the history and recipes for chocolate or Columbus Menu, Italian Cuisine after the first voyage of Christopher Columbus. Recipes from the Kenyan Coast offers a bit more of an off the beaten track cuisine.
My shelves have a bit of everything to tell the truth, Pioneer cooking I can do that with my The Little House Cookbook, Eating up the Santa Fe Trail, and Wagon Wheel Kitchens food on the Oregon Trail. I can even Feast and Fast with Louis and Clark a weighty tome that not only tells you what they ate, but how it was packed, and why it was picked. There are more little pamphlets from this museum and that than I care to count. An old cookbook from 1879 Housekeeping in Old Virginia is sure to make an appearance too. If I need older there's several from the Colonial and Revolutionary period. The Virginia Housewife, The First American Cookbook, Colonial Virginia Cookery.
Overseas, I love overseas, I write about it all the time. The Around the World Cookbook is a good doorstop as well as an all around great book to look at. I even have a 1960’s version of Favorite Recipes form the United Nations and a bunch of others. Historical in those are a bit harder to find when you get out of the ever popular, Italian, French, and such. The Medieval Cookbook covers England and France mainly. The Good Housewife's Jewel goes back even a little further. That's where I fall back on the Internet. As much Cooking Maltese Cuisine can help me in the Modern day it just doesn't do anything for 500 years ago.
Old or new it doesn’t matter, I love cookbooks. And yes I’m sure my husband will continue to roll his eyes for years to come. Hmm maybe I should give him my wish list for Christmas. My kitchen bookshelves are already overflowing, but I’ll figure something out.