Fordham Law

Julia Child Move Over: Fordham Law Administrator Uncovers Drama in Cookbooks from 300 Years Ago

April 28, 2010

Are cookbooks more than just recipe collections? Most definitely, says Sandra Sherman in her new book, Invention of the Modern Cookbook (Greenwood Publishing, 2010).

“Every kitchen has at least one well-worn cookbook, but I wanted to find out how cookbooks evolved,” says Sherman, a food historian, adjunct professor of English at Fordham, and an attorney who is the assistant director of the Intellectual Property Law Institute at Fordham Law School. “What I discovered is fascinating—four centuries of cookbook development, where cookbooks learn how to teach and how to make themselves irresistible, even when you own a dozen already. Cookbooks are still evolving, to keep one step ahead of food blogs.”

“By the 18th century, there were already celebrity chefs, promoted by profit-driven publishers. There were niche texts—for vegetarians, the poor, and for anyone who dared boil a pot of sugar. Cookbooks offered guidance to an aspiring middle class, and catered to newly urbanized readers amidst fast-changing cultural conditions,” she explains. “They illustrate how women adjusted to the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and colonialism. They became etiquette manuals, guides to health, and they got you past your servant problems.”

Tracing the evolution of the cookbook was a natural project for Sherman.

In a previous book, Fresh From the Past: Recipes and Revelations from Moll Flander’s Kitchen, she studied the culinary culture of 18th century Britain and early America, complete with recipes translated for a modern audience. Before that, she explored Britain’s food crisis of the late 18th century, comparing cookbooks for the rich and middle class in Imagining Poverty: Quantification and the Decline of Paternalism.

Her new work features recipes, quotations, and period prints from original 17th and 18th century prints, along with a selected bibliography to help readers interested in learning more about culinary history.

The book is available from Greenwood Publishing,, and other online outlets.

Contact: Sandra Sherman