This post was co-written by Mahogani Harper.

The month of December symbolizes the end of a long year, as a very full month with Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve all packed into it. The month of December is also a month of food! The amount of national food holidays in December beat the amount of religious holidays any day. Most of the national food days in December line up with the occasion for the month, such National Champagne Day on New Year’s Eve and National Egg Nog Day on Christmas Eve.

Cookbooks detailing holiday food have been a staple for the holidays for ages. Here at the Special Collections Research Center, our stacks house a cornucopia of rare books on food, cookery, and housekeeping. Highlighted here are three rare books celebrating food and describing some holiday recipes (among others!)

First, a book from the late 1700s: Mrs. Mason’s Cookery, or the Ladies’ Assistant by Mrs. Charlotte Mason, “a professed housekeeper, who had upwards of thirty years’ experience in families of the first fashion”. This volume, published in 1787 in London, is the sixth edition of Mrs. Mason’s Cookery has handwritten recipes in the pastedown and flyleaf. Seen here is a recipe for “Walnut Ketchup.”

Mason, Charlotte, Mrs. Mason’s Cookery, or the Ladies’ Assistant, TX705 .M39 1787, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.


Also included are recipes for Cheese cake, which highlight the “long s” (that looks like an “f” to our modern eyes) in this printing.

Next, from 1878, is Jennie June’s American Cookbook, which includes two recipes for “magnificent Christmas cakes.”

Croly, J. C., Jennie June’s American Cookery Book, Containing Upwards of Twelve Hundred Choice and Carefully Tested Receipts…, TX715 .C925 1878, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

Finally, from 1893, we have a gingerbread recipe from the cookbook, “Favorite Dishes: A Columbian Autograph Souvenir Cookery Book,” meant to be a souvenir for the Chicago’s World Fair in 1893.

Shuman, Carrie, Favorite Dishes : A Columbian Autograph Souvenir Cookery Book, TX715 .S567, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

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