Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mrs. Beeton, a true inspiration

In 1861, Mrs. Isabella Beeton, a married mother from Hatch End outside London, published Beeton's Book of Household Management. Home cooking in the English speaking world has never been the same. She was no old matriarch - her first publishing was done in her mid-twenties. No small feat for a woman in Victorian England. Her life was also typically tragic for the emerging middle class of fast industrializing England. Her first son died of croup within a year of being born. Her second son died at the age of three from scarlet fever. Her third and fourth sons did live, but poor Mrs Beeton herself died at the tragically young age of 28 after the birth of her fifth child. Her widower died of tuberculosis not long after. 

So why do I bring up this Victorian gentlewoman here, well, she was an excellent cook and helped drag England, kicking and screaming, into the modern age of cookery. She believed in animal welfare and sustainable husbandry. Despite the fact that Victorian England saw the emergence of mass importations of cheap foreign produce, she preached the importance of seasonality. Her recipes are a little bit dated given the styles of the time. However, I have acquired a new book, edited by Gerard Baker that updates her recipes to modern tastes and ingredient without losing the spirit of her recipes. These are truly British recipes and should be considered national treasures to the English. The book is filled with beautiful photos and detailed recipes. I'm especially exited about the braised ox cheek and the curried rabbit. Anyway, I'm going to start testing the recipes out and will of course, record these new adventures.

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