Blast from the past with Mrs Beeton

Having an interest and love of books goes with the territory of working in a library. One staff member was given an antique copy of Mrs. Beeton’s Shilling Cookery Book, also known as The Englishwoman’s Cookery Book by Isabella Beeton. It was given as a wedding present to a neighbours’ parents in 1900.

There are many pearls of wisdom and practical hints covering topics such as hints to prevent kitchen waste, modes of preparing meat and home butchery plus serviette folding techniques. The class system of the time is evident with lists of kitchen utensils and cookware being necessary and ‘suitable for any mansion’, ‘Suitable for good class houses’, ‘suitable for small houses’ and ‘suitable for the smallest house.’

Advertisements in the front and back pages of the book include those for Bumstead’s Table Salt, Savory and Moore’s Best Food for Infants, and Freeman’s Syrup of Phosphorus – ‘for the most delicately constituted.’

Some of the recipes of note include: conger eel soup which included 2lbs of conger eel and 2 marigolds, how to dress a sheep’s head, calf’s feet jelly and gooseberry trifle. There is also a section on invalid cookery that includes such gastronomic delights as barley gruel, egg wine and mutton broth.

Useful handbooks advertised in the back of the book include:
The Manners of Polite Society, or Etiquette for All
All about Etiquette – for Ladies, Gentlemen and Families
Profitable and economical poultry keeping by Mrs. Eliot James – (author of Indian Household Management)
The manners of the aristocracy by One of Themselves
Our Servants: their duties to us and ours to them including the boarding-out question by Mrs. Eliot James.

The book is an interesting and nostalgic reflection on how times have changed. Although the Library doesn’t own this particular book we do have The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton and a massive range of modern cook books.

What antique books have you come across?

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