Köki ja Kokka Ramat, mis Rootsi Kelest Eesti-ma Kele üllespandud on (A Kitchen and Cookery Book Which Has Been Translated from Swedish into the Language of the Estonian Peasantry), published in 1781 in Tallinn, marks the origin of Estonian culinary literature. It was written by a Swedish housekeeper, Anna Christina Warg, alias Madam Kajsa, whose Hjelpreda I hushållingen för unga fruentimber, first published in 1755 in Stockholm, proved commercially successful. This voluminous book was predominantly conceived for chefs who served high society and included a number of gourmet dishes. The collection of recipes indeed deviated from the nutritional habits of the peasantry, but manors’ cooks, who mostly were of Estonian origin, needed a translation. The names given to dishes and food products in this book served as the basis for Estonian culinary terminology.
Two subsequent cookbooks were also translations. In 1824 Uus Kögi- ja Kokka Ramat (A New Kitchen and Cookery Book) was published. Its raison d’être was described in its preface: /…/ because this old kitchen and cookery book that was translated from Swedish into the language of the peasantry more than forty years ago and has been made use of in our country is a rarity and several dishes in it are also not becoming nowadays. /…/ The book is a translation of a large Livländisches Koch- und Wirthschaftsbuch, written by Katharina Fehre, a merchant’s wife from Riga, that was initially published in 1816.
The third cookbook in Estonian was also published after a forty-year interval, in 1864. This book was meant for townsfolk, or as it was put, for bourgeois households. Lyda Panck’s Kasulinne Kögi- ja majapiddamisseramat (A Useful Kitchen and Housekeeping Book) turned out to be an influential manual in both Estonian and German households. No other cookbook could rival the original in German, Livländisches Koch- und Wirthschaftsbuch, first printed in 1844 in Tartu; eight editions were published. Five new editions were published in Estonian.
Earlier cookbooks include many sophisticated dishes, but recipes for more simple meals, too. The quantities given are rather large and intended to serve a large ménage, the ways of preparation being at the same time quite time-consuming. For example: /…/ whip thirty egg yolks with a pound of sugar for an hour without pause /…/. It is striking that the meat of various wild animals and birds (bear, deer, hare, black grouse, snipe, ouzel, etc.) was frequently used. We can find advice on how to prepare dishes from skylarks, roast bear’s paws and swans.
No special cookbooks for the peasantry existed up to the last quarter of the 19th century. In their stead, so-called instructive books, frequently in the form of fiction, provided home economics and nutritional advice; they were compiled by men involved in Estonia’s Enlightenment movement. Supplements to the calendars and columns of periodicals provided tips on what to do when poverty and hunger knocked at one’s door.
Only in the 1880s were the first cookbooks for the peasantry published, mostly compiled by Estonian authors. These were predominantly small popular editions that provided the recipes for simple dishes and eschewed the sophisticated and foreign recipes that had been featured in the large cookbooks of yore. The first cookbook of that kind was Karl Treufeldt’s Lühikene õpetus söögide tegemisest ehk taluperenaese köögi-raamat (A Brief Introduction to Cooking or the Kitchen Book for Peasant Women), published in 1881. However, the works of another author, Mats Tõnisson, became extremely popular. At the same time several special manuals on how to prepare dishes from certain kinds of food products appeared. The first of these was Mai Reivelt’s Kookide tegemise õpetus (How to Bake Cakes), published in 1887, and Kartovli kokk ehk õpetus, kuda kartovlitest 125 rooga valmistada võib (The Potato Cook, or Instructions for Preparing 125 Dishes from Potatoes), published in 1893 and written by someone who called herself Miss Helena. Jaan Spuhl-Rotalia’s work Kodumaa marjad (Our Native Berries), published in 1897 and including many recipes how to preserve food, is also worth mentioning.
The most productive Estonian author of cookbooks around the turn of the 19th and 20th century was Jaan Koor, or a “skilled cook”, as he titles himself in his book. Taking into account new editions, he published approximately ten cookbooks, the most voluminous of which being Koka-raamat 1331 söögi-valmistamise õpetusega (Cookbook for Preparing 1331 Dishes), published in 1900. In the kitchens of the more prosperous townsfolk, it competed successfully with the manuals written by L. Panck.
In the beginning of the 20th century, cooking and home economics courses, organized both in towns as well as in the countryside, were a widespread phenomenon. As the participants needed culinary literature, Majapidamise- ja Keedukool (Home Economics and Cooking School) in a capacious volume was published in 1908. Women who had acquired their skills in home economics schools in Finland or in other foreign countries became distinguished authors of cookbooks. Later, they made their reputation in home economics. One of the most outstanding publications for farming women was Emma Leesment-Mälberg’s Perenaese käsiraamat (A Manual for Housewives), printed in 1913. The same year A. Hoffmann’s Keetmise õpetus (Instructions for Cooking) was published. In 1905 Konservide valmistamise õpetus (Instruction How to Can Food) by Marie von Redelien, a noblewoman from Riga, was translated into Estonian. Vegetarianism became a fashion, reflected in several publications, including a Danish doctor Mikkel Hindhede’s Eeskujulik kokaraamat (An Excellent Cookbook), which promoted the use of simple food, and Marie Sapas’s Taimetoidud ja nende valmistamine (Vegetarian Dishes and How to Prepare Them), both published in 1911, and Marta Põld-Riives’s Taimetoidu kursus (A Vegetarian Course), published in 1916.
Adeline Emeline Marie Tannbaum, a leader of cooking courses and home economics teacher, was a household name in cookbooks for the longest period of time. She published her works in both Estonian and German for a quarter of a century. Beginning with the modest Keedukursus (A Cooking Course) in 1911, this cooking specialist displayed her skills in Keedu- ja majapidamise juht (A Guide to Cooking and Running a Household), first published in 1922. Updated editions of the latter appeared into the late 1930s.
During the first period of independence of the Republic of Estonia, new authors emerged in the realm of cookbook publishing. Of general manuals, Therese Vitismann published her Köögi käsiraamat (A Kitchen Manual) in 1931, Elisabeth Sild her Keedu- ja majapidamisraamat (A Cooking and Home Economics Book) in 1932 and Taimtoidu- ja majapidamisraamat (Vegetarian Dishes and Running a Household) in 1938, and Olga Kesk her Toit on tervis (Healthy Food) in 1938. Larger books from the period are also Signe Donner’s Daani kokaraamat (The Danish Cookbook), published in 1923, Kokakunst sõnas, pildis ja filmis (Culinary Arts in Words, Pictures and Film), published in 1927, and Perenaise leksikon (A Lexicon for a Housewife), published from 1933 up to 1935. Several authors, Hilda Ottenson among others, gave instructions how to preserve food. A novelty on the market was books about raw dishes, the most voluminous of which was Alfred Lepp’s Toortaimetoitlase toitude valmistamisõpetus (An Instruction on How to Prepare Dishes for Raw-Food Vegetarians), published in 1939. The number of publications that focused on dishes from a certain kind of food products increased, treating fish, pasta, apple, and other sorts of dishes. The only cookbook in Russian was published in 1930 in Narva. As to other publications for specific audiences, Salme Ots-Undre’s Väike perenaine (A Little Housewife) for girl guides and girl scouts, published in 1940, was the only book of the kind.
Nutrition advice and food recipes were published in calendars and magazines, too. Perenaise ja koka tähtraamat (A Calendar for Housewives and Cooks) and Keetja perenaise tähtraamat (A Calendar for the Cooking Housewife) should be highlighted from among the others. Magazines like Naisterahva Elu (A Woman’s Life), Eesti Naine (Estonian Woman), Taluperenaine (Peasant Woman), and Maret paid more attention to home economics issues.