Cooking History with The Gilded Age

Friday 17 November 2023

Gilded Age Cookbook


As you all know I have a great love of vintage cookbooks, vintage recipes and food history. It has been a fascination of mine since I was a very young girl.  I have a whole Big Blue Binder filled with old and vintage recipes that I have collected through the years and I am slowly trying to recollect vintage cookery books that I had to leave behind in the U.K. when I moved back from Canada.

I recently received this cookery book as a gift.  The Gilded Age Cookbook, by Becky Libourel Diamond.  It feeds several of my loves, that of food history and vintage recipes.  This is a book about what is known as the "Gilded Age."

The Gilded Age (a term  coined by Mark Twain) was a time in American history which lasted from 1868 to 1900 and was known for its extreme extravagance.  It was a time of rapid economic growth, especially in the Northern and Western U.S.

It was also an era marked by abject poverty and inequality, as millions of immigrants from impoverished regions  of Europe poured into the country, with the promise of higher wages and the chance of a better life, which contrasted greatly with the high concentration of wealth in America becoming much more visible.  

Many of the immigrants ended up employed in the homes and factories of the wealthy as well as in the building of the railways to the West, which were also owned by the wealthy.

The Gilded Age

There are few more ancient institutions than the dinner table, 
or any which has to suddenly become picturesque and luxurious 
beyond the fashion of the immediate past.
~A Modern Dinner Table, Harper's Bazaar, 1883

This book is a fascinating glimpse into this era, viewed from the standpoint of the wealthy,  and from a culinary aspect.  And what better time of year to explore this avenue than this time of year when we will all be celebrating the holidays and pulling out the stops a bit when it comes to our cooking and eating.

Cooking School

This is the perfect time of year to treat the family to an authentic "Gilded Age" menu, which you could do in it's entirety from the pages of this lovely book. 

I gave you a little taste of what it was like to cook for a wealthy family the other day with my Thanksgiving in the Manor post which talked about my experience in cooking for a wealthy American family in the U.K. That family had nothing compared to the families which lived during the Gilded Era.  This was truly an era of extreme opulence!

roast turkey

Imagine being able to treat your family to an authentic Gilded Age Thanksgiving menu of roast turkey garnished with chicken forcemeat balls and served with a side of sweet potato croquettes.  

Using the recipes and cooking tips contained in The Gilded Age Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from America’s Golden Era, from food writer and historian Becky Libourel Diamond, it would be entirely possible!  

Doesn't that turkey look magnificent. If it only tasted half as good as it looks in the book,  it must be fabulous.

dressed table

Scattered throughout the book are magnificent illustrations of  table settings, etc.  It goes into great depth about what it was like to feast in the Pullman Cars of the Railways, attend the cooking schools of the day, and  what it was like to keep abreast of many of the kitchen innovations of the age. Things which many of us take very much for granted in these modern times.

berry cake

It was an age of Picnics, Celebrations, Fetes, Festivals and Strawberry Socials.  Many of these things have largely been forgotten in the hectic pace of modern day life, and it is  really interesting to be able to read about these special occasions, and maybe even replicate some of them for yourself.

It is like a glimpse into Downton Abby American style, but with recipes included! I am loving it.  This book is really a masterful blend of recipes for timeless favorites, decorating tips, and fun facts that I as a culinary history buffs and foodie truly appreciate. 

Chapters cover Culinary Innovations, Outdoor Eats, Dining Out, By Invitation Only, and of course, Holidays.  History and artistry is combined on its pages with a tasteful inclusion of easy-to-follow recipes.


I haven't actually cooked anything from it yet, but I have spent hours perusing its pages and thinking about many things that I would like to cook, especially during the coming holidays. 

Chicken Croquettes

The Chicken Croquettes look fabulous.  In fact all of the recipes in the book have beautiful photographs that set the tastebuds to tingling and the mouth to drooling.  This really is a beautifully designed and photographed book.

Not all of the recipes are outrageously out of the reach of modern day people or budgets either.  If you wanted to throw a tea party there is a whole section on how to do just that and what to serve,  and recipes along with the history behind how these occasions came to be.  I love it!

With over 100 recipes, vivid historical details, essays covering many topics such as etiquette expectations, food procurement, transportation innovations etc., this book is a treasure trove for the history buff or anyone who enjoys costume dramas such as Downton Abby or the Gilded Age, or even just for the serious cook.

If you are looking for a gift for the foodie in your life this year, then I say look no further. In fact, give it to them early so that your holidays can be embroidered with some of the customs and deliciousness gleaned from this fabulous book's pages!


I have no idea what I am going to cook from it first, but I have a few ideas in mind!  Watch this space!

The Gilded Age Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from America’s Golden Era

Publisher: Globe Pequot

ISBN-10: 1493069454

ISBN-13: 978-1493069453

Available from,, and other online retailers

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1 comment

  1. What fun! I love reading special cookbooks too.


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