Cookbook | Definition & History (2024)

cookbook, collection of recipes, instructions, and information about the preparation and serving of foods. At its best, a cookbook is also a chronicle and treasury of the fine art of cooking, an art whose masterpieces—created only to be consumed—would otherwise be lost.

Cookbooks have been written in almost every literate society. One of the most famous of the early ones is the Deipnosophistai (“The Learned Banquet”), a treatise on food and food preparation written in the 2nd century bce by Athenaeus, a Greek gourmet. The treatise is presented in the form of a dialogue between two banqueters, who talk for days and relate recipes for dishes such as stuffed vine leaves and several varieties of cheesecake. Athenaeus was by no means the earliest Greek writer on cooking; he mentions more than 20 authors who preceded him, one of whom, Archestratus, produced his masterpiece, Hēdypatheia (“Pleasant Living”), in 350 bce.

Another famous gourmet of the ancient world was Apicius, a wealthy Roman merchant of the reign of Tiberius (14–37 ce). Apicius’s colossal banquets eventually drove him to bankruptcy and suicide, but he left behind a cookbook so prized that it has been preserved, in numerous editions, down to the 20th century.

The gastronomy of early China is preserved in a number of treatises, one of the most interesting of which is called The Important Things to Know About Eating and Drinking, by Huou, master chef of the imperial court of Kublai Khan (1215–94). Huou’s collection consists largely of recipes for soups, but it is also a useful encyclopaedia of household information.

Medieval Europe also produced cookbooks. Among the earliest in English was The Form of Cury (the word cury is an obsolete term for cooked food), compiled in the 12th century. It consists of 196 recipes, many of which reveal their French origin in names such as “Blank Manng” and “Payn Fondewe.” One of the first French books, called La Ménagier de Paris, was published in 1394 and contained recipes for such delicacies as frogs and snails.

The printing press revolutionized the culinary arts by making cookbooks widely available. The first known to have been printed, in 1485, was produced by an Italian, Bartolema Scappi, who mainly recorded recipes for marzipans and other sweets.

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Cookbooks proliferated as the rising middle classes gained interest in better food preparation. The first cookbook written by a woman was Hannah Wooley’s The Queen-like Closet; or Rich Cabinet, published in 1670. The secrets of French cuisine were made available to a wide public by the cookbooks of great chefs like Alexis Soyer of the mid-19th century, whose Shilling Cookery for the People sold more than 100,000 copies. One of the most successful and popular cookbooks of all time was produced in the United States in 1896, when Fannie Merritt Farmer took on the editorship of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. Farmer was the first to standardize the methods and measurements of her recipes, assuring reliable results to her readers.

The 20th and early 21st centuries witnessed a prodigious burst of interest in cookery, including thousands of national or regional specialty dishes that were previously unknown outside their own countries or areas. Some well-known cookbooks published during this time included Mastering the Art of French Cooking, 2 vol. (1961, 1970), by American cook Julia Child and French cooks Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle; James Beard’s American Cookery (1972), by American culinary expert James Beard; and Gordon Ramsay’s Passion for Flavour (1996), by Scottish chef and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay.

Cookbooks have become a mainstay of the publishing world, with scores produced annually by amateur and professional chefs, cooking schools, and the food departments of the major food producers and popular magazines.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Kara Rogers.

Cookbook | Definition & History (2024)


What are the 7 questions of a cookbook reviewer? ›

Here's my questions–who knows, maybe they'll help you the next time you're having brain freeze in the Cookbooks section.
  • Question 1: Is it useful? ...
  • Question 2: Is it thoughtful? ...
  • Question 3: Is it new? ...
  • Question 4: Does it tell a story? ...
  • Question 5: Is it well-designed? ...
  • Question 6: Is it focused?
Nov 14, 2011

What is the history of the cookbook? ›

The first recorded cookbook is said to be four clay tablets from 1700 BC in Ancient Mesopotamia, but by the 1300s, cookbooks were a norm for kings and nobles. In 1390, Forme of Cury (The Rules of Cookery) was published for–but not by–King Richard II.

What is the oldest cookbook still in print? ›

The first recorded cookbook that is still in print today is Of Culinary Matters (originally, De Re Coquinaria), written by Apicius, in fourth century AD Rome. It contains more than 500 recipes, including many with Indian spices.

Did Snoop Dogg write a cookbook? ›

The rapper's very first cookbook, From Crook to Cook features 50 recipes inspired by Snoop's family staples and favorite comfort foods, with instructions to make everything from fried bologna sandwiches and baked mac and cheese, to soft tacos and orange chicken.

What questions to answer in a book review? ›

Some possible questions to address include: Why do you think other readers would enjoy it? Why did you enjoy it (if you did) or why didn't you (if you didn't). What ages or types of readers do you think would like the book?

What are 4 things to notice when reading a recipe beforehand? ›

Cooking Basics: How to Read A Recipe
  • Read the Recipe, Start to Finish.
  • Check Ingredients and Equipment.
  • Brush up on Common Cooking Terms.
  • Set your own Time Clock.
  • Master Do-ahead Tasks.
Oct 13, 2017

Are cookbooks still a thing? ›

But do cookbooks still sell? Yes, they do. In fact, it's a burgeoning and competitive market. But that's just another reason to make sure that you do everything possible to make your cookbook the best it can be.

What is the first page of the cookbook? ›

The title page is the first page of your cookbook with text on it. It usually contains the title of the book at a minimum. It can also have the name of the author, the sub head, and sometimes an illustration or photograph.

Who was the first person to make a cookbook? ›

The earliest collection of recipes that has survived in Europe is De re coquinaria, written in Latin. An early version was first compiled sometime in the 1st century and has often been attributed to the Roman gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius, though this has been cast in doubt by modern research.

What is the most sold cookbook of all time? ›

Betty Crocker's Cookbook (originally called Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book) by Betty Crocker (1950) – approx. 65 million copies. When the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book was published by the fictional Betty Crocker in 1950, its sales actually rivaled those of the Bible.

Who was the youngest person to publish a cookbook? ›

Justin Miller (USA, b. 10 Janurary 1990) was aged seven when his cookbook "Cooking with Justin: Recipes for Kids (And Parents)" was published in 1997.

How old was Julia Child when she published her cookbook? ›

Child went on to enroll at the infamous French cooking school Le Cordon Bleu in Paris when she was 37 years old and she didn't publish her first cookbook until she was 49 years old because it took her nine years to complete.

What rapper wrote a cookbook? ›

Snoop Dogg is to publish his first cookbook, From Crook to Cook, in October. The rapper will share his recipes for everything from fine-dining choices such as lobster thermidor to earthier fare such as waffles, plus a gin and juice recipe. He said in a statement: “You know it's blazin' up in my kitchen.

How much money does Snoop Dogg have in his bank account? ›

Snoop Dogg: US$160 million.

How to do a cookbook review? ›

Here are 5 tips on how to ace cookbook reviews:
  1. Describe the author's background and authority. Introduce the author to readers and comment on his or her experience and expertise. ...
  2. Identify the intended audience. ...
  3. Write in the style appropriate to the publication. ...
  4. Be honest in your cookbook reviews.
May 28, 2019

What is expected of a book reviewer? ›

Skills for a book reviewer

Here are a few skills that a book reviewer might need: Excellent reading and comprehension skills. Strong writing abilities. Time management skills.

How do you analyze a cookbook? ›

Themes to consider
  1. Why is the author writing this book?
  2. Who is the intended audience? ...
  3. What kind of assumptions does the author(s) make about cooking/cuisine/food?
  4. What kinds of ingredients are used? ...
  5. How precise are the recipes?

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