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Manuscript Cookbooks as Autobiography: A Glimpse at the Life of Emma Blomfield Schreiber

Manuscript Cookbooks as Autobiography: A Glimpse at the Life of Emma Blomfield Schreiber

Rachel A. Snell, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Maine

Emma Blomfield Schreiber was christened at the Anglican Church in Bradwell-near-the-sea on September 19, 1834. The seventh child of Rev. Thomas Schreiber and his wife Sarah, she was also the couple’s second daughter. On April 4, 1861 she wed Charles Day, Esq. at Yorkville, near Toronto, Canada West. Five years before her marriage, Emma began a manuscript recipe book a collection of one hundred and thirty-six handwritten recipes ranging from Ambrosia to White Lemon Cream. Emma collected recipes for desserts, made dishes, beverages, remedies, cleaning solutions, and preserves. The careful record of the source for many recipes preserves her network of female friends and relatives. A recipe for plum pudding dated December 1887 suggests Emma (or someone else) used, added to, and revised her recipe book for at least thirty years.

Relatively little information about Emma and her life are available to the researcher: a christening record, a couple English Census accounts, and a marriage announcement. The description of the Schreiber Family Papers mentions Weymouth George Schreiber, the first of the family to immigrate to Upper Canada, his wife and accomplished artist, Charlotte Schreiber, and Adelaide Harriet Schreiber, who married lawyer, financier, and politician George William Allan. Several of her brothers and her sister, Harriet, appear in newspaper accounts, but the record, at this stage in research, for Emma is nearly silent. The most significant record of Emma’s life available is her cookbook.

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