I've been using a thing called an RSS aggregator to read many of my favorite blog sites (including this one). If you don't have an aggregator or don't know what I'm talking about, I recommend Bloglines. Sign up for free. Anyway, I just came across an RSS feed for Project Gutenberg texts.
Project Gutenberg has been collecting public-domain works and putting them into computer-readable formats since 1971. If you'd like to subscribe to the feed, point your rss aggregator to http://www.gutenberg.net/browse/recent/today.rdf.
So what does this have to do with food? Last night, I was notified by Bloglines that among the latest works added to PG is Marion Harris Neil's The Story of Crisco.
The Story of Crisco was clearly written for Proctor & Gamble and the text is fabulous. Some of my favorite quotes:
First, on the merits of Crisco:
"It seems strange to many that there can be anything better than butter for cooking, or of greater utility than lard, and the advent of Crisco has been a shock to the older generation, born in an age less progressive than our own"
"Equip your children with good stomachs by giving them wholesome Crisco foods--foods which digest with ease.
They may eat Crisco doughnuts or pie without being chased by nightmares. Sweet dreams follow the Crisco supper."
Advice is given on arcane matters such as choosing the best meats:
"A hare when fresh killed is stiff and red; when stale, the body is supple and the flesh in many parts black. If the hare be old the ears will be tough and dry, and will not tear readily. Rabbits may be judged in the same manner. In both, the claws should be smooth and sharp. In a young hare the cleft in the lip is narrow, and the claws are cracked readily if turned sideways."
"_Smelts_ should be stiff and silvery, with a delicate perfume faintly suggestive of cucumber."
(For those of you under 30, "_Smelts_" is an old-timey computer way of indicating the word Smelts should be underlined or otherwise emphasized, as in "Smelts")
The book goes on to give good advice on cooking methods, converts various Imperial units, offers usual cooking times for foods, tells you how to carve various beasties, and then offers page after page of recipes.
Certainly, all the recipes feature Crisco in some way or form, and they are older heavier dishes in many cases, but a lot of them sound very good. I'm intrigued by the Flounder a la Creme, the Colcannon, Curried Cauliflower, and by the Savory Lentil Dish.
Not all the recipes are winners, but it's worth a good skim. If you don't like Crisco, you can substitute olive oil or butter or cream. Or you could try the recipes as is. I've heard the best pie crusts are made with Crisco or leaf lard.
This isn't the only Gutenberg food-related text. If you find interesting recipes in any of these books, think about sending the people at PG a donation to cover the cost of scanning, OCR'ing and proofreading these entries:
Woman's Institute Library of Cookery by the Women's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences:
Volume 1: Essentials of Cookery; Cereals; Bread; Hot Breads:
Volume 2: Milk, Butter and Cheese; Eggs; Vegetables
Volume 3: Soup; Meat; Poultry and Game; Fish and Shell Fish
Volume 4: Salads and Sandwiches; Cold and Frozen Desserts;Cakes, Cookies and Puddings; Pastries and Pies
Volume 5: Fruit and Fruit Desserts; Canning and Drying; Jelly Making, Preserving and Pickling; Confections; Beverages; the Planning of Meals
The Healthy Life Cook Book, 2d ed. by Florence Daniel
The International Jewish Cook Book:1600 Recipes According to the Jewish Dietary Laws with the Rules for Kashering; the Favorite Recipes of America, Austria, Germany, Russia, France, Poland, Roumania, Etc., Etc.by Florence Kreisler Greenbaum
School and Home Cooking by Carlotta Cherryholmes Greer
The Physiology of Taste by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, translated by Fayette Robinson
Simple Italian Cookery by Antonia Isola
Many Ways for Cooking Eggs by S.T. Rorer
...and many, many more. Search for Title Words on the PG site to find other works to explore.