On my blog, Gena's Genealogy I have a weekly theme called Church Record Sunday. These postings deal with archives, books and records that might help you find church records for your ancestor. On occasion I have written about cookbooks as part of Church Record Sunday.
In studying community cookbooks, considering the beliefs of the group who is publishing the cookbook can help in learning more about your ancestor's life. Their beliefs about food including the use of alcohol, meat, vegetables and desserts will become apparent in the pages of their cookbook. While a recipe might hint at an ethnic origin so too will it reflect a religious belief system.
I like something that Steve Luxenberg, the author of Annie's Ghosts said in a presentation I attended. He pointed out that you have to go beyond a document and what it says; you have to look at what the document tells us. Initially a community/church cookbook may just reflect at the very least the name of the person who submitted the recipe. But in truly reading the recipe you may learn more about their life.
The following posting appeared origianlly on Gena's Genealogy on May 23, 2010. I thought it would be approrpiate to repost it here.
Church Record Sunday: Seventh-day Adventists and Food
This morning I finished reading a great book that was a history of America told through cookbooks. From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals by Barbara Haber was an excellent read that detailed cookbooks from the FDR White House, WWII Japanese Interment Camps in the Philippines, African American Cookbooks and more.
One of the chapters, Chapter 3: They Dieted for Our Sins: America's Food Reformers, discusses dietary reformers such as Sylvester Graham and the Kelloggs. Their 19th century food ideas are intertwined with the dietary ideas of Ellen G. White, founder of the Seventh-day Adventists. Haber has some interesting history of these early diet reformers and how their ideas has shaped the way we eat today.
For those with Seventh-day Adventist ancestors, you may want to read more about the history and beliefs of the early church. Haber includes in her annotated bibliography some books that you may be itnerested in.
Numbers, Ronald L. Prophetess of Health: A Study of Ellen G. White. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.
Graham, Roy E. Ellen G. White, Co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. New York: Peter Lang, 1985.
She also includes books about Graham and Kellog in this bibliography as well.
While this posting isn't the typical posting about church records, I think the social history of our ancestors is important and this look at the dietary reformers is one that is vital to understanding the history of the Seventh-day Adventist church.