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Cookbook


A cookbook (sometimes cookery book in Commonwealth English or cook book) is a kitchen reference publication that typically contains a collection of recipes.

Modern versions may also include colorful illustrations and advice on purchasing quality ingredients or making substitutions. Cookbooks can also cover a wide variety of topics, including cooking techniques for the home, recipes and commentary from famous chefs, institutional kitchen manuals, and cultural commentary.

The earliest cookbooks on record seem to be mainly lists of recipes for what would now be called haute cuisine, and were often written primarily to either provide a record of the author's favorite dishes or to train professional cooks for banquets and upper-class, private homes. Many of these cookbooks, therefore, provide only limited sociological or culinary value, as they leave out significant sections of ancient cuisine such as peasant food, breads, and preparations such as vegetable dishes too simple to warrant a recipe.

Ancient Mesopotamian recipes have been found on three Akkadian tablets, dating to about 1700 BC.

The earliest collection of recipes that has survived in Europe is De re coquinaria, written in Latin. An early version was first compiled sometime in the 1st century and has often been attributed to the Roman gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius, though this has been cast in doubt by modern research. An Apicius came to designate a book of recipes. The current text appears to have been compiled in the late 4th or early 5th century; the first print edition is from 1483. It records a mix of ancient Greek and Roman cuisine, but with few details on preparation and cooking.

An abbreviated epitome entitled Apici Excerpta a Vinidario, a "pocket Apicius" by Vinidarius, "an illustrious man", was made in the Carolingian era. In spite of its late date it represents the last manifestation of the cuisine of Antiquity.

The earliest cookbooks known in Arabic are those of al-Warraq (an early 10th-century compendium of recipes from the 9th and 10th centuries) and al-Baghdadi (13th century).



  • Adamson, Melitta Weiss Food in Medieval Times. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT. 2004.
  • Food in the Middle Ages: A Book of Essays. Melitta Weiss Adamson (editor). Garland, New York. 1995.
  • Regional Cuisines of Medieval Europe: A Book of Essays. edited by Melitta Weiss Adamson (editor). Routledge, New York. 2002.
  • What's the Recipe? - Our hunger for cookbooks., Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 2009.
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