The Nerd Side Of Life

1,000 Years of Meals in 5,000 Historical Cookbooks from The Sifter

Cooks and chefs rejoice! The Sifter is a database that contains 5,000 historical cookbooks and covers 1,000 years of cooking and food history.  

For 50 years, Barbara Ketcham Wheaton was busy collecting information on historical cooking techniques from all over the world.  She researched the ingredients, instructions, and culture behind every dish.  Back in July of 2020, Barbara and her two sons, Joe Wheaton and Catherine Wheaton Saines, created The Sifter database where all of her hard work can be seen.  

“At present it includes over 5,000 authors and 5,000 works with details about the authors and about the contents of the works.”

The Sifter

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A Scholarly Feast – Alumnae Association
Photo: Alumnae Association – of Mount Holyoke College

“The Sifter is a publicly available searchable database and is designed to be a tool to aid in finding, identifying and comparing historical and contemporary writing on food and related topics.”

The Sifter

The Sifter highlights 5,000 historical cookbooks from Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library as well as others.  

What makes this site so unique is the way it came about. Modern technology has allowed data collection to come about in a day or two, whereas Wheaton had to meticulously take notes by hand, reach out to her sons for help, and explore Julia Child’s cookbook collection.  

The site explains that “it is overseen by an advisory board of rotating members of the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery as well as other friends of food history.”

Do you like cooking? What do you think about this incredible collection of historical cookbooks? Let us know in the comments!

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