Invention of the Modern Cookbook
by Sandra Sherman
April 2010, 261pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-1-59884-486-3
$61, £46, 53€, A83
eBook Available: 978-1-59884-487-0
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Move over Julia Child. Far from being a modern phenomenon, the cult of the celebrity chef actually emerged in the 18th century. The period featured its own celebrity chef feuds, as well as blockbuster cooking texts—offering opinions on everything from slavery to the drawbacks of hiring a foreign chef—that even went through multiple editions.

This eye-opening history will change the way you read a cookbook or regard a TV chef, making cooking ventures vastly more interesting—and a lot more fun.

Every kitchen has at least one well-worn cookbook, but just how did they come to be? Invention of the Modern Cookbook is the first study to examine that question, discussing the roots of these collections in 17th-century England and illuminating the cookbook’s role as it has evolved over time.

Readers will discover that cookbooks were the product of careful invention by highly skilled chefs and profit-minded publishers who designed them for maximum audience appeal, responding to a changing readership and cultural conditions and utilizing innovative marketing and promotion techniques still practiced today. They will see how cookbooks helped women adjust to the changes of the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution by educating them on a range of subjects from etiquette to dealing with household servants. And they will learn how the books themselves became “modern,” taking on the characteristics we now take for granted.


  • Numerous recipes and quotations from original manuscripts from the 17th and 18th centuries
  • A substantial timeline ranging from 1500 to 1800, describing the major events in culinary history
  • Dozens of original period prints by well-known artists relating to food, plus images from major culinary texts
  • A glossary of foreign and specialized culinary terms
  • A selected bibliography including electronic resources to help readers find primary and secondary materials relating to culinary history
Sandra Sherman, PhD, is a food historian and author of Fresh from the Past: Recipes and Revelations from Moll Flanders' Kitchen. She is also an attorney and assistant director at the Intellectual Property Law Institute, Fordham University.


"Food historian Sandra Sherman looks into the present-day fascination with cookbooks and celebrity chefs, showing how the modern cookbook has roots going back as far as 17th-century England. She shows how even the first cookbooks were the product of careful invention by highly skilled chefs and profit-minded publishers who designed them for maximum audience appeal. Sherman describes how cookbook writers and publishers kept ahead of changes in readership and cultural conditions by using marketing and promotion techniques that are still practiced today, and she shows how they ultimately developed cookbooks with the 'modern' characteristics that we take for granted today. While the author’s writing style is a bit on the academic side, jargon is kept to a minimum, making this book suitable both for academics and adventurous general readers."—Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 2010

"Recommended. Large academic libraries serving upper-division undergraduates through researchers/faculty."—Choice, November 1, 2010

"In this brilliant book, Sandra Sherman sheds new light on one of the biggest literary and media phenomena of all time: the modern cookbook. Her scholarship is impeccable, her thinking sharp and new. As she combs through more than three hundred years of culinary records, Sherman reveals why our appetite for cookbooks is endless, and why their legacy and promises continue to endure—and evolve. Anyone who wants to understand the history of the blockbuster cookbook (and its consistently winning formulas) must read this book."—Laura Schenone, author of James Beard Award–winning A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove: A History of American Women Told Through Food, Recipes, and Remembrances and The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and Family

"Sandra Sherman's approach to the history of cookbooks is original, acute, and witty. Invention of the Modern Cookbook will be of interest to a wide range of readers, from those who study eighteenth-century literature and culture to those who enjoy contemporary cookbooks and cooking programs or simply enjoy cooking and eating. This is an important--and engaging-- volume." —Heather Dubrow, John D. Boyd, SJ, Chair in the Poetic Imagination at Fordham University and Director of the Poets Out Loud poetry reading series

“If you thought you knew what a 'cookbook' is, read this smart analysis of a genre that continues to evolve, explode, and implode. Armed with scholarship and a lively sense of history, Sandra Sherman shows how the modern cookbook began in 18th-century England as a mass-marketed text. Even then it was shaped by entrepreneurial strategies, hyped by publicity machines, tied to celebrity chefs and used for geopolitical aims. If you want to understand the rage for foodblogs today, this is the book to read.”—Betty Fussell, author of Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef
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