I am nearly back to normal and organised after my impromptu trip to catch up with your posts. :-)
I was having so much fun reading through the first of the old books from my aunt that I launched straight into reading the second one; Mr’s Beeton’s Family Cookery.
I really am taken back in time when I read these wonderful old books.
Unfortunately I could not find a publication date in this book. I went to Google to see if I could find it but alas. I did however learn Isabella Beeton wrote articles on cooking and household management for her husband who was a publisher of books and magazines – a great help in getting her books published and that she died at the tender age of 28 a week after giving birth to her fourth son. It seems many of the recipes were actually plagiarised from earlier writers, but the Beetons never claimed any of the contents were original. The intention was as a guide of reliable information for the aspirant middle classes. “Mrs Beeton is perhaps described better as its compiler and editor than as its author, many of the passages clearly being not her own words.“
The book has nearly 3000 recipes and includes sections on labour saving, household work, servant’s duties, laundry work, marketing, renovations, carving and trussing, the art of “using-up”, table decoration, table napkins, meals and menus and more.
I am so pleased they don’t write the way they used to, it was all very complicated.
Part of the Preface which is 3 full pages reads:
“Mrs. Beeton’s competitors have paid her the compliment of imitation and adaptation up to, and sometimes beyond, the limits that the lay and public alike proclaim its merits, and even the writers of romances of domestic life have recorded how it constantly rescues young housekeepers from perplexity and woe.”
I love that eggs have their own chapter of recipes and their is even a chapter dedicated to South African cooking although it was a first for me to read: “Many South African colonists consider the iguana – a large kind of amphibious lizard – a very welcome addition to the bill of faire, and say that the flesh of this reptile is anything but unpalatable.
There are so many anecdotes I want to share from this book but not sure what to include and what to leave out. This is a whopper of a book with nearly 900 pages.
I had to giggle when I read the chapter on “The Housewife” under the organisation category: “Whether the establishment be large or small, the functions of the housewife resemble those of the general of an army or the manager of a great business concern.” Then under “A Woman’s Home” “should be first and foremost in her life, but if she allow household cares entirely to occupy her thoughts, she will become narrow in her interest and sympathies, a condition not conducive to domestic happiness.” My mouth was agape when I read in the “Management of Servants”: “Where there is a large staff or servant’s…” Clearly things have changed dramatically.
There is advice on buying a home which includes knowing what the composition of the soil is and to not be too fussy when looking for a home. Goodness me!
“When taking a house in a new locality, it is etiquette to wait for the residents of longer standing to call, thus evincing a desire, on their part, to become acquainted. It may be that the mistress will desire intimacy with but a few of her neighbours.” Not sure this has entirely the same connotation today.
“In the event of your being invited to dinner, after calls have been made, nothing but necessity should prevent you from accepting. If you really cannot accept, state the reason frankly and plainly. Opportunity should also be taken to call in the course of a day or two, to express regret that circumstances made it impossible.“ All so very formal and strict I’d say.
There are 24 pages as well as 4 pages of pictures covering household hints on how to clean,repair, renew and uses for anything from ball valves to tortoiseshell and velvet ribbons as well as what to do if your clothing or somebody is on fire.
We definitely have it easy now days with modern washing and dryer machines and electric irons. All the hand-washing would not have been my idea of fun.
The Marketing chapter covers everything from where and when to purchase meats, seasonal fruits and vegetables, covers the quality of all meats, has sketches of the different cuts of beef, mutton/lamb and pork and provides guidelines on whether to buy large or small quantities of certain items as well as how to test the freshness of your larder and storeroom groceries. There is also a guide on when foods are best, in season and at their cheapest and best.
The chapter on the cook covers very strict instructions on the importance of early rising, preparation of meals, kitchen duties, importance of cooking, how to dress and be economical and advice on how to be efficient in the kitchen.
The Kitchen chapter covered everything from the construction and arrangement of a kitchen to equipment, fittings (including the ceiling), furniture with a detailed explanation on which is the right kitchen clock, various cooking methods, and the carious ways of heating – electricity, coal, oil etc, culinary utensils and their care as well as a list of kitchen utensils.
The Art of Cookery chapter leaves nothing to the imagination as it encompasses everything from reasons for cooking, action of heat, constituents of food, the nine methods of cookery, quantities and measures, table of equivalents as well as a comprehensive cook’s time-table.
The recipes cover many chapters and I hope to share a few iconic recipes when I can.
The book even has a chapter on table decoration with all the do’s and dont’s.
The last chapter is dedicated to table napkins with 12 pages on the various ways of folding napkins:(The Bishop, The Fan, The Boats, The Palm, The Lily, and the Cactus, The Slipper, The Rose and Star, The Mitre, The Cockscomb, Fleur-De-Lis Varieties, The Boar’s Head, The Sachet and The Vase) “It must, however be remembered that it is useless to attempt anything but the most simple forms unless the napkins have been slightly starched and smoothly ironed. In every case the folding must be exact, or the result will be slovenly and unsightly. If not quite certain how the designs are executed it is better to practise on a piece of paper rather than to risk soiling a napkin.“
The interior front and back covers as well as the last few pages of the book have advertisements. I wonder what it cost to place an ad?