The Compleat Housewife
The Compleat Housewife, or Accomplish'd Gentlewoman's Companion, written by Eliza Smith and originally published in London, England, in 1727, is considered the first cookbook ever to be published in the United States. The Compleat Housewife contained not only recipes, but also directions for painting rooms, removing mildew, and home remedies for treating ailments, such as smallpox.
The Compleat Housewife was published in the United States for the first time in 1742, by William Parks, a Williamsburg, Virginia, printer. He printed and sold the cookbook, believing that there was a strong market for it with Virginia housewives who wished to be current with the London fashion. Parks was the founder of the Maryland Gazette (now known as The Capital), and published a number of minor books and pamphlets before printing The Compleat Housewife, which became his major book publication. The book that was published in America was the fifth London edition, which was a best seller of the time.
During the 18th century, British books including The Compleat Housewife were reprinted in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. When The Compleat Housewife was printed in 1742, Parks made an attempt to have the cookbook altered to American "taste", deleting certain recipes, "the ingredients or materials for which are not to be had in this country."
When Eliza Smith wrote The Compleat Housewife, she showed "her self-assurance to attack English attitudes toward food and women cooks." In the book's preface, Smith chides the male culinary writers of her time. She claimed that they concealed their best recipes from the public. The Compleat Housewife title page describes the book as a
|“||collection of several hundred of the most approved receipts, in cookery, pastry, confectionery, preserving, pickles, cakes, creams, jellies, made wines, cordials. And also bills of fare for every month of the year. To which is added, a collection of nearly two hundred family receipts of medicines; viz. drinks, syrups, salves, ointments, and many other things of sovereign and approved efficacy in most distempers, pains, aches, wounds, sores, etc. never before made publick in these parts; fit either for private families, or such publick-spirited gentlewomen as would be beneficent to their poor neighbours.||”|
An original 15th edition of The Compleat Housewife from 1753 is held by Chawton House Library in Hampshire, UK. The library has recently published a new hardback edition of the book.
An original 10th edition of "The Compleat Housewife" from 1741 is held by the Wayne County Historical Society, Lyons, NY in their reference library.
- - - HOUSEHOLD WORDS: Women Write from and for the Kitchen URL last accessed 2007-04-25
- - - Penn Library, Cookbooks URL last accessed 2007-04-25
- - research.history.org - The Compleat Housewife URL last accessed 2007-04-25
- - chowdc.org - The Cookbook in America: A History Talk given by Willis van Devanter to the Culinary Historians of Washington, DC October 3, 2004 URL last accessed 2006-12-08
- - digital.lib.msu.edu - Feeding America URL last accessed 2006-12-09
- - Culinary Thymes - Understanding Women's Lives through their Cookbooks the section that is referenced is from the book Cookbooks Worth Collecting by Mary Barile. See footnote section in the referenced article. URL last accessed 2006-12-09