Friday Reads: Women & Cookbooks

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This week, I’m continuing to barrel through research on gin and dining habits of the 1700s. But my research on foods of this era led me to an interesting book that I started a couple of days ago, Eat My Words: Reading Women’s Lives through the Cookbooks they Wrote by Janet Theophano (Palgrave, 2002). It reminded me of another book I read on the subject a few years ago, A Thousand Years over a Hot Stove by Laura Schenone (W.W. Norton, 2004). Theophano’s book is more academic than Schenone’s book which was a lively read as well as educational. Both demonstrate that cookbooks are about much more than just food but as Theophano notes, “illustrate a woman’s social interactions” at the time. I’m personally fascinated by culinary history and cookbooks in general, and both of these titles show how eating and recipes shifted over the years, and how the women who wrote them changed as well. It also has a universal message — that becoming a proficient cook can lead to confidence in area outside the kitchen as well. Anyone who has read my second book will know why I highlighted this comment in Eat My Words: “Cookbooks make evident the self-esteem some women developed as their matured in their domestic roles…” while in the past some areas were difficult for women to participate in, domestic pursuits were one in which “women could compete and excel.”

I also started to read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee to study the pacing and the language of her work. She also had such a natural way with dialogue and character development. I find that reading a great book while trying to do a lot of writing myself inspires me to write even more. Does that make any sense?

About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of “The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry,” “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School” and “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good.” All are published by Viking/Penguin.


  1. That’s an interesting idea–to consider what the cookbooks are saying about the social/societal roles of women. I have a few cookbooks from the 50s-60s and I definitely noticed the ingredients and the pictures (heels and below-the-skirts, of course!) reflected a very different world.

    “A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove” looks really interesting. Thanks for the recommendation!

    I’m sort of embarrassed to admit that I’ve never read “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I really need to! And I love that you read to write! It makes SO much sense, but sometimes, when I’m slogging through my own maze or editing misery, it’s hard to take/make time to actually do it. It’s like exercise or anything else “good for you” – I know it’s good for me…now must actually do it!

    Great post! Thank you!

    • Kathleen Flinn says:

      Thanks for the good comments. It’s true sometimes I feel guiltly just “reading” when it’s not research or something. But I find that when I do get involved in reading a writer I admire, it has such a positive effect.

  2. embrita says:

    Thanks for the recommendations!

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