A Taste of History: Teacher Resource III

Click here for a printer-friendly version (PDF)

Interpreting Historic German-American Cookbooks

Using original German-American cookbooks from the nineteenth century for German instruction is more complex than using other texts. At the same time these materials provide a unique context to the language and a fascinating insight into many cultural aspects.


The cookbooks are written in the old German Fraktur script. While finding it confusing at first sight, most students can decipher the different characters rather quickly. Examples of Fraktur styles can be found at:

Spelling and Punctuation

Spelling and punctuation do not necessarily agree with today’s rules. For example: Thee = Tee/tea; Zimmet = Zimt/cinnamon

Measuring Units

In the original German edition of Henriette Davidies’ book ingredients are measured in gram/kilogram for solids and liters/milliliters for liquids. For the American edition these were changed to American units. However, in addition to Unzen, Pfund, Pint, and Teelöffel, some archaic forms can also be found. For example:

  • Gran – grain, troy-grain: an old weight unit, used for small amounts, mostly in apothecaries. 1 gran = 34.8 mg
  • Dram (or Dirhem): an old weight-unit of Turkish origin, used mainly for weighing silver. 1 dram = 3-4g, depending on the region where it was used.

Oven temperatures are given, for example, as 34 Grad or 36 ½ Grad Fahrenheit. This refers to old stove settings and can be read as 340 and 365 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively.

For a conversion chart look to http://www.pastrywiz.com/conversion.htm or use an online conversion service, such as http://www.convert-me.com/en/ or http://www.onlineconversion.com/.

Back to A Taste of History: Lesson Plan 1

Back to Lesson Plans and Curriculum Ideas