It took a bit of skill to be a good cook in the days before automatic oven controls. These instructions on "How To Heat an Oven" are taken word for word from a vintage cookbook printed in 1805. I've even left in the capitalized words in strange places.
"Some people consider it economical to heat Ovens with fagots, brush and light stuff. Hard wood heats it quicker and better. Take four foot wood split fine and pile it criss-cross so as to nearly fill the oven and keep putting in. A Roaring fire for an hour or more is usually enough.
"The top and sides will at first be covered with black soot. See that it is all burned off. Rake the coals over the bottom of the oven and let them lie a minute. Then sweep it out clean. If you can hold your hand inside while you count Forty it is about right for flour bread. To count twenty is right for Rye and Indian.
"If it is too hot, wet an old broom two or three times and turn it round near the top of the oven till it dries; this prevents pies and cakes from scorching on top. When you go into a new house, heat your oven two or three times to get it seasoned before you use it.
"Bake the Brown bread first, then the flour bread and pies, then cake or puddings and last Custards. After everything else is out, put in a pan of apples. Next morning they will be deliciously baked. A pot of Beans can be baking back side, out of the way with the Rest."
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.