Mrs Beeton’s Family Cookery

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.

Old cookery books

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.

Mrs Beeton's Family Cookery

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.

Mrs Beetons mechanical laundering

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.

Mrs Beetons 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.

Mrs Beetons napkin folding 1

Mrs Beetons napkin folding 2

Mrs Beetons napkin folding 3

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?

49 thoughts on “Mrs Beeton’s Family Cookery

  1. Okay I now know I take my modern washing machine and dryer for granted. How did they work those things back in the day – WOW! I love the list of utensils🙂 I learned napkin folding at 17 when I work in a buffet and catering hall – oh what fun times. Happy Week – thanks so much for sharing.

    • I know! Can you imagine taking the whole day to do the laundry! We had friends over for dinner earlier this week and I was very tempted to fold the napkins in one of the patterns and then ran out of time and just rolled them up with a silver ring. Have a beautiful happy love filled week ahead.🙂 xo

  2. I’ve never been good at folding napkins. Three thousand recipes? Some people think they’ve written a cookbook if they have 50 recipes ready to go. She was such an inspiration and she achieved so much in her 28 years xx

  3. I only got through half of this when I stopped by yesterday, but I’m so glad I came back to finish the article! This sounds like such an interesting book to look through. It’s always crazy to compare older books (especially cookbooks, ifestyle books, things in that vein) with our contemporary mentalities.

    • Hi Jaleh, this was a bit longer than my normal posts, thank you for stopping by to finish reading it. This truly is a wonderful read and one which takes more than one sitting to get through. So sad we have lost the simplicity of life. Have a wonderful weekend.🙂 xo

  4. What a delightful book! Once again, so interesting to peer into the homes and lives of our forebears, seeing how much is changed and yet how much remains exactly the same. And I must say, as a bishop’s daughter I was pleased to see both the Bishop and the Mitre represented in table napkin art, particularly since the dad in question is also an enthusiastic celebrant at table!😉 I don’t know if I can replicate the napkin-origami myself, but I’ll send him a link so he can enjoy a good grin too.😀
    Love and hugs!!
    Kathryn

    • Kath, had I known, I would have copied all the pages of napkin folding. There are so many more. I just chose the ones I really liked.🙂 Would be lovely to sit and fold the Bishop and Mitre together – we could ask your dad for some help.😀 Have a beautiful weekend dear friend, I am looking forward to catching up on your posts.🙂 xoxoxoxo

  5. Oh that is awesome Mandy, love that you are making your way through all these wonderful old books. You can find some gems in them, that’s for sure.🙂
    Hope you are well my friend. I miss you! Hugs across the oceans. xox

  6. Holy moly! Did you read all 900 pages? Wow! That is impressive Mandy. The napkin folding diagrams have me just intrigued. This sounds like a gem of a book. What a great find by your aunt.

    • Hi Kristy, this is a whopper of a book to get through and I read most of the pages and loved every one. Your tea arrived in the mail and I cannot wait to try each and every one, thank you so much! I do hope mine has arrived with you. Have a beautiful weekend.🙂 xoxo

  7. Sorry haven’t commented for ages – I too have been away. I adore old cook books even if I don’t cook from them. Mrs Beeton’s books were actually a clever marketing ploy by her husband. A lot of her recipes were famed not to work but this compendium was a ground breaker and has become a by word for good, basic cooking.

  8. Oh dear Mandy – I read this & started to reply but my computer locked up on me. I LOVE this book – it reminds me of my mother’s old cooking books because the old ones always had a lot in them about napkin folders, how to set a table, and all sorts of interesting little entertainment ideas. Of course that bit about what a housewife is supposed to be like….well I think we can all agree that it’s a little out of date.
    Way back when I was in high school, girls were required to take Home Economics which was hardly anything to do with the numbers type of economics but everything to do with being a proper housewife. Boys had to take shop where they pretty much all learned how to make a shoe shine caddy.

    • Oh no, hope your computer is behaving now Diane. I too love being transported back to a time when things were easier. I think books were “worth” more back in the day as they were always filled with so much! I also had to take home economics classes but we only learnt how to cook and bake simple items. Hmm, I wonder if they thought we might not marry. Haa haa. My Pete made the most incredible things in his shop classes. We still have a bed tray which he made in his first year of high school! Have a super day and hope all the engagement party plans are going well.🙂 xoxoxo

  9. I have just found this book in a charity store for £2 and came across your post on my search to find out more about it and when it was published.

    So sad she passed away at 28, so young and such a loss to her children.

    I am pleased that we woman have moved on thankfully since that age and my role is beyond ‘housewife’…however it appeared it was a long and hard haul in the old days.

    I have to share that there was a little note in the front in my “Joy Green, bought 2 pennies at June’s Wheels (Bath) Jumble Sale 1968. I may add my own little in that will add another owner for its next.

    Life’s little treasures hey :0)

    • Hi Lisa, thanks for stopping by. It was sad to see there isn’t more information available about this lovely old book. How lovely you were able to find one for £2. Enjoy using it.
      Oh my yes, how things have changed! I wonder what the woman of yesteryear would say about us today?
      Have a wonderful and happy week ahead.🙂 xo

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