To know me is to know that I have a particular penchant for historical reenactments. There’s something intoxicating, beguiling, about people who choose to forego the present and exist instead in a bygone era. So imagine my intense delight when I came upon a Youtube channel devoted only to recipes and cooking techniques from the 1800s. These are the recipe videos I’ve been waiting for.
The channel is anchored by a man named John Townsend who, clad in full garb—think knickers and ruffled shirts—cooks recipes culled from cookbooks written centuries ago. He uses only traditional kitchen gear and cooks entirely over a hearth or an open flame. I love the interior of his kitchen: There’s a quill by the window, copper and silver tins hang from hooks mounted on the walls, no sign of a fridge in sight. His commitment to historical authenticity is, to say the least, commendable.
Townsend recently released a recipe video for macaroni and cheese that sparked my exploration into the universe of 18th century cooking. His preparation comes from John Farley’s 1784 book, The London Art of Cookery, and is spartan in its preparation. You could even call it a 5-ingredient dinner, to borrow some of our modern parlance. Cream, a ball of butter rolled in flour (!), and Parmesan are all he needs to bring this take on a macaroni and cheese to life. Check it out:
Besides this macaroni recipe, there’s a whole swath of videos that center around long-forgotten recipes. Michael Twitty, culinary historian, even surfaces in a few of them. If the macaroni left you wanting more, peruse through some of Townsend’s other videos. I, for one, am a huge fan.
Are you as hooked as I am? Let me know where you stand in the comments below.
Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.