Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine, by William Carew Hazlitt

ornament

Cookery Books

Part I.

The first attempt to illustrate this branch of the art must have been made by Alexander Neckam in the twelfth century; at least I am not aware of any older treatise in which the furniture and apparatus of a kitchen are set forth.

But it is needless to say that Neckam merely dealt with a theme, which had been familiar many centuries before his time, and compiled his treatise, “De Utensilibus,” as Bishop Alfric had his earlier “Colloquy,” with an educational, not a culinary, object, and with a view to facilitate the knowledge of Latin among his scholars. It is rather interesting to know that he was a native of St. Albans, where he was born in 1157. He died in 1217, so that the composition of this work of his (one of many) may be referred to the close of the twelfth century. Its value is, in a certain sense, impaired by the almost complete absence of English terms; Latin and (so called) Norman-French being the languages almost exclusively employed in it. But we have good reason indeed to be grateful for such a legacy in any shape, and when we consider the tendency of ways of life to pass unchanged from one generation to another, and when we think how many archaic and (to our apprehension) almost barbarous fashions and forms in domestic management lingered within living recollection, it will not be hazarding much after all to presume that the particulars so casually supplied to us by Neckam have an application alike before and after.

A student should also bear in mind that, from the strong Anglo-Gallic complexion of our society and manners in early days, the accounts collected by Lacroix are largely applicable to this country, and the same facilities for administering to the comfort and luxuries of the table, which he furnishes as illustrative of the gradual outgrowth from the wood fire and the pot-au-feu among his own countrymen, or certain classes of them, may be received as something like counterparts of what we possessed in England at or about the same period. We keep the phrase pot luck; but, for most of those who use it, it has parted with all its meaning. This said production of Neckam of St. Albans purports to be a guide to young housekeepers. It instructs them what they will require, if they desire to see their establishment well-ordered; but we soon perceive that the author has in view the arrangements indispensable for a family of high rank and pretensions; and it may be once for all observed that this kind of literature seldom proves of much service to us in an investigation of the state of the poor, until we come to the fifteenth or even sixteenth century, when the artists of Germany and the Low Countries began to delineate those scenes in industrial and servile life, which time and change have rendered so valuable.

Where their superiors in rank regarded them as little more than mechanical instruments for carrying on the business of life, the poor have left behind them few records of their mode of sustenance and of the food which enabled them to follow their daily toil. The anecdotes, whatever they may be worth, of Alfred and the burnt cakes, and of Tom Thumb’s mamma and her Christmas pudding, made in a bowl, of which the principal material was pork, stand almost alone; for we get, wherever we look, nothing but descriptions by learned and educated men of their equals or betters, how they fed and what they ate — their houses, their furniture, their weapons, and their dress. Even in the passage of the old fabliau of the “King and the Hermit” the latter, instead of admitting us to a cottage interior, has a servant to wait on him, brings out a tablecloth, lights two candles, and lays before his disguised guest venison and wine. In most of our own romances, and in the epics of antiquity, we have to be satisfied with vague and splendid generalisations. We do not learn much of the dishes which were on the tables, how they were cooked, and how [Greek: oi polloi] cooked theirs.

The Liber, or rather Codex, Princeps in the very long and extensive catalogue of works on English Cookery, is a vellum roll called the Form of Cury, and is supposed to have been written about the beginning of the fifteenth century by the master-cook of Richard II who reigned from 1377 to 1399, and spent the public money in eating and drinking, instead of wasting it, as his grandfather had done, in foreign wars. This singular relic was once in the Harleian collection, but did not pass with the rest of the Mss. to the British Museum; it is now however, Additional Ms. 5016, having been presented to the Library by Mr. Gustavus Brander. It was edited by Dr. Pegge in 1780, and included by Warner in his “Antiquitates Culinariae,” 1791. The Roll comprises 196 receipts, and commences with a sort of preamble and a Table of Contents. In the former it is worth noting that the enterprise was undertaken “by the assent and avisement of masters of physic and of philosophy, that dwelled in his (Richard II.‘s) court,” which illustrates the ancient alliance between medicine and cookery, which has not till lately been dissolved. The directions were to enable a man “to make common pottages and common meats for the household, as they should be made, craftily and wholesomely;” so that this body of cookery was not prepared exclusively for the use of the royal kitchen, but for those who had not the taste or wish for what are termed, in contra-distinction, in the next sentence, “curious pottages, and meats, and subtleties.” It is to be conjectured that copies of such a Ms. were multiplied, and from time to time reproduced with suitable changes; but with the exception of two different, though nearly coeval, collections, embracing 31 and 162 receipts or nyms, and also successively printed by Pegge and Warner, there is no apparent trace of any systematic compilation of this nature at so remote a date.

The “Form of Cury” was in the 28 Eliz., in the possession of the Stafford family, and was in that year presented to the Queen by Edward, Lord Stafford, as is to be gathered from a Latin memorandum at the end, in his lordship’s hand, preserved by Pegge and Warner in their editions. The fellowship between the arts of healing and cooking is brought to our recollection by a leonine verse at the end of one of the shorter separate collections above described:—

“Explicit de Coquina

Quae est optima Medicina.”

The “Form of Cury” will amply remunerate a study. It presents the earliest mention, so far as I can discern, of olive oil, cloves, mace, and gourds. In the receipts for making Aigredouce and Bardolf, sugar, that indispensable feature in the cuisine, makes its appearance; but it does so, I should add, in such a way as to lead to the belief that the use of sugar was at this time becoming more general. The difficulty, at first, seems to have been in refining it. We encounter here, too, onions under the name borrowed from the French instead of the Anglo-Saxon form “ynne leac”; and the prescriptions for making messes of almonds, pork, peas, and beans are numerous. There is “Saracen sauce,” moreover, possibly as old as the Crusades, and pig with sage stuffing (from which it was but one step to duck). More than one species of “galantine” was already known; and I observe the distinction, in one of the smaller collections printed by Warner, between the tartlet formed of meat and the tartlet de fritures, of which the latter approaches more nearly our notion. The imperfect comprehension of harmonies, which is illustrated by the prehistoric bag-pudding of King Arthur, still continued in the unnatural union of flesh with sweets. It is now confined to the cottage, whence Arthur may have himself introduced it at Court and to the Knights of the Round Table.

In this authority, several of the dishes were to be cooked in white grease, which Warner interprets into lard; others demanded olive oil; but there is no allusion to butter. Among the receipts are some for dishes “in gravy”; rabbits and chickens were to be treated similarly; and the gravy appears to have consisted merely of the broth in which they were boiled, and which was flavoured with pounded almonds, powdered ginger, and sugar.

The “Liber Cure Cocorum,” which is apparently extant only in a fifteenth century Ms., is a metrical treatise, instructing its readers how to prepare certain dishes, condiments and accessories; and presents, for the most part, a repetition of what has already occurred in earlier and more comprehensive undertakings. It is a curious aid to our knowledge of the manner in which the table of the well-to-do Englishman was furnished in the time of Henry VI., and it is so far special, that it deals with the subject more from a middle-class point of view than the “Regulations for the Royal Household,” and other similar compilations, which I have to bring under notice. The names, as usual, are often misleading, as in blanc manger, which is very different from our blanc-mange; and the receipt for “goose in a hog pot” leaves one in doubt as to its adaptability to the modern palate. The poetical ambition of the author has proved a source of embarrassment here and there; and in the receipt “for a service on a fish-day” the practitioner is prayed within four lines to cover his white herring for God’s sake, and lay mustard over his red for God’s love, because sake and love rhyme with take and above.

The next collection of receipts, which exists in a complete and homogeneous shape, is the “Noble Book of Cookery,” of which an early Ms. copy at Holkham was edited in 1882 by Mrs. Napier, but which had already been printed by Pynson in 1500, and subsequently by his successor, John Byddell. This interesting and important volume commences with a series of descriptions of certain royal and noble entertainments given on various occasions from the time of Henry IV. to that of Edward IV., and then proceeds to furnish a series of directions for the cook of a king’s or prince’s household; for, although both at the outset and the conclusion we are told that these dishes were calculated for all estates, it is abundantly obvious that they were such as never then, or very long subsequently, reached much lower than the court or the aristocracy. There is a less complete copy here of the feast at the enthronement of Archbishop Nevile. I regret that neither of the old printed copies is at present accessible. That of 1500 was formerly in the library at Bulstrode, and I was given by the late Mr. Bradshaw to understand that the same copy (no other being known) is probably at Longleat. By referring to Herbert’s “Typographical Antiquities,” anyone may see that, if his account (so far as it goes) is to be trusted, the printed copy varies from the Holkham Ms. in many verbal particulars, and gives the date of Nevile’s Feast as 1465.

The compilation usually known as the “Book of St. Albans,” 1486, is, perhaps, next to the “Noble Book of Cookery,” the oldest receptacle for information on the subject in hand. The former, however, deals with cookery only in an incidental and special way. Like Arnold’s Chronicle, the St. Albans volume is a miscellany comprehending nearly all the matters that were apt to interest the few educated persons who were qualified to peruse its pages; and amid a variety of allied topics we come here across a catalogue of terms used in speaking of certain dishes of that day. The reference is to the prevailing methods of dressing and carving. A deer was said to be broken, a cony unlaced, a pheasant, partridge, or quail winged, a pigeon or a woodcock thighed, a plover minced, a mallard unbraced. They spoke of a salmon or a gurnard as chined, a sole as loined, a haddock as sided, an eel as trousoned, a pike as splatted, and a trout as gobbeted.

It must, I think, be predicated of Tusser’s “Husbandry,” of which the last edition published in the writer’s lifetime is that of 1580, that it seems rather to reproduce precepts which occur elsewhere than to supply the reader with the fruits of his own direct observation. But there are certain points in it which are curious and original. He tells the ploughman that, after confession on Shrove Tuesday, he may go and thresh the fat hen, and if he is blindfold, kill her, and then dine on fritters and pancakes. At other times, seed-cakes, wafers, and other light confections.

It appears to have been usual for the farmer at that date to allow his hinds roast meat twice a week, on Sundays and on Thursday nights; but perhaps this was a generous extreme, as Tusser is unusually liberal in his ideas.

Tobias Venner, a Somersetshire man, brought out in 1620 his “Via Recta ad Vitam Longam.” He was evidently a very intelligent person, and affords us the result of his professional experience and personal observation. He considered two meals a day sufficient for all ordinary people — breakfast at eleven and supper at six (as at the universities); but he thought that children and the aged or infirm could not be tied by any rule. He condemns “bull’s beef” as rank, unpleasant, and indigestible, and holds it best for the labourer; which seems to indicate more than anything else the low state of knowledge in the grazier, when Venner wrote: but there is something beyond friendly counsel where our author dissuades the poor from eating partridges, because they are calculated to promote asthma. “Wherefore,” he ingenuously says, “when they shall chance to meet with a covey of young partridges, they were much better to bestow them upon such, for whom they are convenient!”

Salmon, turbot, and sturgeon he also reckoned hard of digestion, and injurious, if taken to excess; nor does he approve of herrings and sprats; and anchovies he characterises as the meat of drunkards. It is the first that we have heard of them.

He was not a bad judge of what was palatable, and prescribes as an agreeable and wholesome meal a couple of poached eggs with a little salt and vinegar, and a few corns of pepper, some bread and butter, and a draught of pure claret. He gives a receipt — the earliest I have seen in print — for making metheglin or hydromel. He does not object to furmety or junket, or indeed to custards, if they are eaten at the proper seasons, and in the middle or at the end of meals. But he dislikes mushrooms, and advises you to wash out your mouth, and rub your teeth and gums with a dry cloth, after drinking milk.

The potato, however, he praises as nutritious and pleasant to the taste, yet, as Gerarde the herbalist also says, flatulent. Venner refers to a mode of sopping them in wine as existing in his time. They were sometimes roasted in the embers, and there were other ways of dressing them. John Forster, of Hanlop, in Bucks, wrote a pamphlet in 1664 to shew that the more extended cultivation of this root would be a great national benefit.

Venner, who practised in the spring and autumn at Bath as a physician, had no relish for the poorer classes, who did not fare well at the hands of their superiors in any sense in the excellent old days. But he liked the Quality, in which he embraced the Universities, and he tenders them, among other little hints, the information that green ginger was good for the memory, and conserve of roses (not the salad of roses immortalised by Apuleius) was a capital posset against bed-time. “A conserve of rosemary and sage,” says he, “to be often used by students, especially mornings fasting, doth greatly delight the brain.”

The military ascendency of Spain did not fail to influence the culinary civilisation of those countries to which it temporarily extended its rule; and in a Venetian work entitled “Epulario, or the Italian Banquet,” printed in 1549, we recognise the Spanish tone which had in the sixteenth century communicated itself to the cookery of the Peninsula, shewing that Charles V. and his son carried at least one art with them as an indemnity for the havoc which they committed.

The nursery rhyme of “Sing a song of sixpence” receives a singular and diverting illustration from the pages of this “Epulario,” where occurs a receipt “to make Pies that the Birds may be alive in them, and fly out when it is cut up.” Some of the other more salient beads relate to the mode of dressing sundry dishes in the Roman and Catalonian fashion, and teach us how to seethe gourds, as they did in Spain, and to make mustard after the manner of Padua.

I propose here to register certain contributions to our acquaintance with early culinary ideas and practices, which I have not specifically described:—

1. The Book of Carving. W. de Worde. 4to, 1508, 1513. Reprinted down to 1613.

2. A Proper New Book of Cookery. 12mo, 1546. Often reprinted. It is a recension of the “Book of Cookery,” 1500.

3. The Treasury of Commodious Conceits and Hidden Secrets. By John Partridge. 12mo, 1580, 1586; and under the title of “Treasury of Hidden Secrets,” 4to, 1596, 1600, 1637, 1653.

4. A Book of Cookery. Gathered by A.W. 12mo, 1584, 1591, etc.

5. The Good Housewife’s Jewel. By Thomas Dawson. In two Parts, 12mo, 1585. A copy of Part 2 of this date is in the British Museum.

6. The Good Housewife’s Treasury. 12 mo, 1588.

7. Cookery for all manner of Dutch Victual. Licensed in 1590, but not otherwise known.

8. The Good Housewife’s Handmaid for the Kitchen. 8vo, 1594.

9. The Ladies’ Practice; or, a plain and easy direction for ladies and gentlewomen. By John Murrell. Licensed in 1617. Printed in 1621, and with additions in 1638, 1641, and 1650.

10. A Book of Cookery. By George Crewe. Licensed in 1623, but not known.

11. A Closet for Ladies and Gentlewomen. 12mo, 1630.

12. The Ladies’ Cabinet Opened. By Patrick, Lord Ruthven. 4to, 1639; 8vo, 1655.

13. A Curious Treasury of Twenty Rare Secrets. Published by La Fountaine, an expert Operator. 4to, 1649.

14. A New Dispensatory of Fourty Physical Receipts. Published by Salvatore Winter of Naples, an expert Operator. 4to, 1649. Second edition, enlarged: same date.

The three last are rather in the class of miscellanies.

15. Health’s Improvement; or, Rules comprising the discovering the Nature, Method, and Manner of preparing all sorts of Food used in this Nation. By Thomas Muffet (or Moffat), M.D. Corrected and enlarged by Christopher Bennett, M.D. 4to, 1655.

16. The Queen’s Closet opened. Incomparable secrets in physick, chirurgery, Preserving, Candying, and Cookery. . . . Transcribed from the true copies of her Majesties own Receipt Books. By W.M., one of her late Servants. . . . London, 1655, 8vo. The same, corrected and revised, with many new and large Additions. 8vo, 1683.

17. The Perfect Cook: being the most exact directions for the making all kinds of pastes, with the perfect way teaching how to raise, season, and make all sorts of pies. . . . As also the Perfect English Cook. . . . To which is added the way of dressing all manner of Flesh. By M. Marmette. London, 1686, 12mo.

The writer of the “French Gardener,” of which I have had occasion to say a good deal in my small volume on that subject, also produced, “Les Délices de la Campagne,” which Evelyn excused himself from translating because, whatever experience he had in the garden, he had none, he says, in the shambles; and it was for those who affected such matters to get it done, but not by him who did the “French Cook”1. He seems to imply that the latter, though an excellent work in its way, had not only been marred in the translation, but was not so practically advantageous to us as it might have been, “for want of skill in the kitchen”— in other words, an evil, which still prevails, was then appreciated by intelligent observers — the English cook did not understand her business, and the English mistress, as a rule, was equally ignorant.

1 I have not seen this book, nor is it under that title in the catalogue of the British Museum.

One of the engravings in the “French Gardener” represents women rolling out paste, preparing vegetables, and boiling conserves.

There is a rather quaint and attractive class of miscellaneous receipt-books, not made so on account of any particular merit in their contents, but by reason of their association with some person of quality. Ms. Sloane 1367, is a narrow octavo volume, for instance, containing “My Lady Rennelagh’s choice Receipts: as also some of Capt. Gvilt’s, who valued them above gold.” The value for us, however, is solely in the link with a noble family and the little touch about the Captain. There are many more such in public and private libraries, and they are often mere transcripts from printed works — select assemblages of directions for dressing food and curing diseases, formed for domestic reference before the advent of Dr. Buchan, and Mrs. Glasse, and Mrs. Rundell.

Among a valuable and extensive assemblage of English and foreign cookery books in the Patent Office Library, Mr. Ordish has obligingly pointed out to me a curious 4to Ms., on the cover of which occurs, “Mrs. Mary Dacres her booke, 1666.”

Even in the latter part of the seventeenth century the old-fashioned dishes, better suited to the country than to the Court taste, remained in fashion, and are included in receipt-books, even in that published by Joseph Cooper, who had been head-cook to Charles I, and who styles his 1654 volume “The Art of Cookery Refined and Augmented.” He gives us two varieties of oatmeal pudding, French barley pudding, and hasty pudding in a bag. There is a direction for frying mushrooms, which were growing more into favour at the table than in the days when Castelvetri, whom I cite in my monograph on Gardening, was among us. Another dainty is an ox-palate pie.

Cooper’s Preface is quaint, and surely modest enough. “Though the cheats,” says he, “of some preceding pieces that treated on this subject (whose Title-pages, like the contents of a weekly Pamphlet, promised much more than the Books performed) may have provided this but a cold intertainment at its first coming abroad; yet I know it will not stay long in the world, before every rational reader will clear it of all alliance to those false pretenders. Ladies, forgive my confidence, if I tell you, that I know this piece will prove your favourite.”

Yet Cooper’s performance, in spite of its droll, self-complacent vein in the address to the Reader, is a judicious and useful selection, and was, in fact, far more serviceable to the middle-class gentry than some of those which had gone before. It adapted itself to sundry conditions of men; but it kept in view those whose purses were not richly lined enough to pay for dainties and “subtleties.” It is pleasant to see that, after the countless centuries which had run out since Arthur, the bag-pudding and hot-pot maintained their ground — good, wholesome, country fare.

After the fall of the Monarchy in 1648, the chef de cuisine probably found his occupation gone, like a greater man before him; and the world may owe to enforced repose this condescension to the pen by the deposed minister of a king.

Soon after the Restoration it was that some Royalist brought out a small volume called “The Court and Kitchen of Elizabeth, commonly called Joan Cromwell, the wife of the late Usurper, truly described and represented,” 12mo, 1664. Its design was to throw ridicule on the parsimony of the Protectoral household. But he recites some excellent dishes which made their appearance at Oliver’s table: Dutch puddings, Scotch collops of veal, marrow puddings, sack posset, boiled woodcocks, and warden pies. He seems to have understood that eight stone of beef were cooked every morning for the establishment, and all scraps were diligently collected, and given alternately to the poor of St. Margaret’s, Westminster, and St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields. The writer acquaints us that, when the Protector entertained the French ambassador and the Parliament, after the Sindercome affair, he only spent £1,000 over the banquet, of which the Lady Protectress managed to save £200. Cromwell and his wife, we are told, did not care for suppers, but contented themselves with eggs and slops.

A story is told here of Cromwell and his wife sitting down to a loin of veal, and his calling for an orange, which was the sauce he preferred to that joint, and her highness telling him that he could not have one, for they were not to be had under a groat.

The Mansion House still retains the ancient usage of distributing the relics of a great feast afterwards among the poor, as Cromwell is said just above to have made a rule of his household. It was a practice highly essential in the absence of any organised system of relief.

The reign of Charles II., which witnessed a relationship with France of a very different character from that which the English maintained during the Plantagenet and earlier Tudor rule, was favourable to the naturalisation of the Parisian school of cookery, and numerous works were published at and about that time, in which the development of knowledge in this direction is shown to have taken place pari passu with the advance in gardening and arboriculture under the auspices of Evelyn.

In 1683 we come to a little volume entitled “The Young Cook’s Monitor,” by M.H., who made it public for the benefit of his (or her) scholars; a really valuable and comprehensive manual, wherein, without any attempt at arrangement, there is an ample assemblage of directions for preparing for the table all kinds of joints, made dishes, soups and broths, frigacies, puddings, pies, tarts, tansies, and jellies. Receipts for pickling are included, and two ways are shown how we should treat turnips after this wise. Some of the ingredients proposed for sauces seem to our ears rather prodigious. In one place a contemporary peruser has inserted an ironical calculation in Ms. to the effect that, whereas a cod’s head could be bought for fourpence, the condiments recommended for it were not to be had for less than nine shillings. The book teaches us to make Scotch collops, to pickle lemons and quinces, to make French bread, to collar beef, pork, or eels, to make gooseberry fool, to dry beef after the Dutch fashion, to make sack posset two ways, to candy flowers (violets, roses, etc.) for salads, to pickle walnuts like mangoes, to make flummery, to make a carp pie, to pickle French beans and cucumbers, to make damson and quince wines, to make a French pudding (called a Pomeroy pudding), to make a leg of pork like a Westphalia ham, to make mutton as beef, and to pot beef to eat like venison.

These and many other precepts has M.H. left behind him; and a sort of companion volume, printed a little before, goes mainly over the same ground, to wit, “Rare and Excellent Receipts Experienced and Taught by Mrs. Mary Tillinghast, and now printed for the use of her scholars only,” 1678. The lady appealed to a limited constituency, like M.H.; but her pages, such as they are (for there are but thirty), are now publici juris. The lesson to be drawn from Mistress Tillinghast’s printed labours is that, among our ancestors in 1678, pies and pasties of all sorts, and sweet pastry, were in increased vogue. Her slender volume is filled with elucidations on the proper manufacture of paste of various sorts; and in addition to the pies designated by M.H. we encounter a Lombard pie, a Battalia pie, an artichoke pie, a potato (or secret) pie, a chadron [Footnote: A pie chiefly composed of a calf’s chadroa] pie, and a herring pie. The fair author takes care to instruct us as to the sauces or dressings which are to accompany certain of her dishes.

“The Book of Cookery,” 1500, of which there was a reprint by John Byddell about 1530 was often republished, with certain modifications, down to 1650, under the titles of “A Proper New Book of Cookery,” or “The Book of Cookery.” Notwithstanding the presence of many competitors, it continued to be a public favourite, and perhaps answered the wants of those who did not desire to see on their tables the foreign novelties introduced by travellers, or advertised in collections of receipts borrowed from other languages.

In fact, the first half of the seventeenth century did not witness many accessions to the store of literature on this subject. But from the time of the Commonwealth, the supply of works of reference for the housekeeper and the cook became much more regular and extensive. In 1653, Selden’s friend, the Countess of Kent, brought out her “Choice Manual of Physic and Chirurgery,” annexing to it receipts for preserving and candying; and there were a few others, about the same time, of whose works I shall add here a short list:—

1. The Accomplished Cook. By Robert May. 8vo, 1660. Fifth edition, 8vo, 1685.

2. The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected. By Will. Rabisha. 8vo, 1661.

3. The Queen-like Closet: a Rich Cabinet, stored with all manner of rare receipts. By Hannah Wolley. 8vo, 1670.

4. The True Way of Preserving and Candying, and making several sorts of Sweetmeats. Anon. 8vo, 1681.

5. The Complete Servant-Maid. 12 mo, 1682-3.

6. A Choice Collection of Select Remedies. . . . Together with excellent Directions for Cooking, and also for Preserving and Conserving. By G. Hartman [a Chemist]. 8vo, 1684.

7. A Treatise of Cleanness in Meats and Drinks, of the Preparation of Food, etc. By Thomas Tryon. 4to, 1682.

8. The Genteel Housekeeper’s Pastime; or, The mode of Carving at the Table represented in a Pack of Playing Cards. 8vo, 1693.

9. A New Art of Brewing Beer, Ale, and other sorts of Liquors. By T. Tryon. 12mo, 1690-91.

10. The Way to get Wealth; or, A New and Ready Way to make twenty-three sorts of Wines, equal to that of France . . . also to make Cyder. . . . By the same. 12mo, 1702.

11. A Treatise of Foods in General. By Louis Lemery. Translated into English. 8vo, 1704.

12. England’s Newest Way in all sorts of Cookery. By Henry Howard, Free Cook of London. Second edition, 8vo, 1708.

13. Royal Cookery; or, the Complete Court-Cook. By Patrick Lamb, Esq., near 50 years Master-Cook to their late Majesties King Charles II., King James II., King William, Mary, and to her present Majesty, Queen Anne. 8vo, 1710. Third edition, 8vo, 1726.

14. The Queen’s Royal Cookery. By J. Hall, Free Cook of London. 12mo, 1713-15.

15. Mrs. Mary Eales’ Receipts, Confectioner to her late Majesty, Queen Anne. 8vo, 1718.

16. A Collection of three hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physic, and Surgery. In two parts, 8vo, 1729.

17. The Complete City and Country Cook. By Charles Carter. 8vo, 1732.

18. The Complete Housewife. Seventh edition, 8vo, 1736.

19. The Complete Family Piece: A very choice Collection of Receipts. Second edition, 8vo, 1737.

20. The Modern Cook. By Vincent La Chapelle, Cook to the Prince of Orange. Third edition. 8vo, 1744.

21. A Treatise of all sorts of Foods. By L. Lemery. Translated by D. Hay, M.D. 8vo, 1745.

This completes the list of books, so far as they have fallen in my way, or been pointed out by the kindness of friends, down to the middle of the last century.

It was probably Charles, Duke of Bolton (1698-1722), who was at one time Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and who in the beginning of his ducal career, at all events, resided in St. James’s Street, that possessed successively as head-cooks John Nott and John Middleton. To each of these artists we owe a volume of considerable pretensions, and the “Cook’s and Confectioner’s Dictionary,” 1723, by the former, is positively a very entertaining and cyclopedic publication. Nott inscribes his book “To all Good Housewives,” and declares that he placed an Introduction before it merely because fashion had made it as strange for a book to appear without one as for a man to be seen in church without a neckcloth or a lady without a hoop-petticoat. He congratulates himself and his readers on living in a land flowing with milk and honey, quotes the saw about God sending meat and somebody else sending cooks, and accounts for his omission of pigments by saying, like a gallant man, that his countrywomen little needed such things. Nott opens with Some Divertisements in Cookery, us’d at Festival-Times, as Twelfth-Day, etc., which are highly curious, and his dictionary itself presents the novelty of being arranged, lexicon-wise, alphabetically. He seems to have been a fairly-read and intelligent man, and cites, in the course of his work, many celebrated names and receipts. Thus we have:— To brew ale Sir Jonas Moore’s way; to make Dr. Butler’s purging ale; ale of health and strength, by the Viscount St. Albans; almond butter the Cambridge way; to dress a leg of mutton à la Dauphine; to dress mutton the Turkish way; to stew a pike the City way. Dr. Twin’s, Dr. Blacksmith’s, and Dr. Atkin’s almond butter; an amber pudding, according to the Lord Conway’s receipt; the Countess of Rutland’s Banbury cake; to make Oxford cake; to make Portugal cakes; and so on. Nott embraces every branch of his subject, and furnishes us with bills of fare for every month of the year, terms and rules of carving, and the manner of setting out a dessert of fruits and sweetmeats. There is a singular process explained for making China broth, into which an ounce of china is to enter. Many new ways had been gradually found of utilising the materials for food, and vegetables were growing more plentiful. The carrot was used in soups, puddings, and tarts. Asparagus and spinach, which are wanting in all the earlier authorities, were common, and the barberry had come into favour. We now begin to notice more frequent mention of marmalades, blanc-manges, creams, biscuits, and sweet cakes. There is a receipt for a carraway cake, for a cabbage pudding, and for a chocolate tart.

The production by his Grace of Bolton’s other chef, John Middleton, is “Five Hundred New Receipts in Cookery, Confectionary, Pastry, Preserving, Conserving, Pickling,” and the date is 1734. Middleton doubtless borrowed a good deal from his predecessor; but he also appears to have made some improvements in the science. We have here the methods, to dress pikes à la sauce Robert, to make blackcaps (apples baked in their skins); to make a Wood Street cake; to make Shrewsbury cakes; to dress a leg of mutton like a gammon of bacon; to dress eggs à la Augemotte; to make a dish of quaking pudding of several colours; to make an Italian pudding, and to make an Olio. The eye seems to meet for the first time with hasty pudding, plum-porridge (an experiment toward the solidification of the older plum-broth), rolled beef-steaks, samphire, hedgehog cream (so called from its shape, currants being used for the eyes, and cut almonds for the bristles), cocks’-combs, orange, spinach and bean tarts, custards in cups (the 1723 book talks of jellies served on china plates), and lastly, jam — the real jam of these days, made to last, as we are told, the whole year. There is an excellent prescription for making elderberry wine, besides, in which Malaga raisins are to be largely used. “In one year,” says our chef, “it will be as good and as pleasant as French wine.”

Let us extract the way “to make Black-caps”:—“Take a dozen of good pippins, cut them in halves, and take out the cores; then place them on a right Mazarine dish with the skins on, the cut side downwards; put to them a very little water, scrape on them some loaf sugar, put them in a hot oven till the skins are burnt black, and your apples tender; serve them on Plates strew’d over with sugar.”

Of these books, I select the preface to “The Complete Housewife,” by E. Smith, 1736, because it appears to be a somewhat more ambitious endeavour in an introductory way than the authors of such undertakings usually hazard. From the last paragraph we collect that the writer was a woman, and throughout she makes us aware that she was a person of long practical experience. Indeed, as the volume comprehends a variety of topics, including medicines, Mrs. or Miss Smith must have been unusually observant, and have had remarkable opportunities of making herself conversant with matters beyond the ordinary range of culinary specialists. I propose presently to print a few samples of her workmanship, and a list of her principal receipts in that section of the book with which I am just now concerned. First of all, here is the Preface, which begins, as we see, by a little piece of plagiarism from Nott’s exordium:—

Preface.

“It being grown as unfashionable for a book now to appear in publick without a preface, as for a lady to appear at a ball without a hoop-petticoat, I shall conform to custom for fashion-sake, and not through any necessity. The subject being both common and universal, needs no arguments to introduce it, and being so necessary for the gratification of the appetite, stands in need of no encomiums to allure persons to the practice of it; since there are but few now-a-days who love not good eating and drinking. Therefore I entirely quit those two topicks; but having three or four pages to be filled up previous to the subject it self, I shall employ them on a subject I think new, and not yet handled by any of the pretenders to the art of cookery; and that is, the antiquity of it; which if it either instruct or divert, I shall be satisfied, if you are so.

“Cookrey, confectionary, &c., like all other sciences and arts, had their infancy, and did not arrive at a state of maturity but by slow degrees, various experiments, and a long tract of time: for in the infant-age of the world, when the new inhabitants contented themselves with the simple provision of nature, viz. the vegetable diet, the fruits and production of the teeming ground, as they succeeded one another in their several peculiar seasons, the art of cookery was unknown; apples, nuts, and herbs, were both meat and sauce, and mankind stood in no need of any additional sauces, ragoes, &c., but a good appetite; which a healthful and vigorous constitution, a clear, wholesome, odoriferous air, moderate exercise, and an exemption from anxious cares, always supplied them with.

“We read of no palled appetites, but such as proceeded from the decays of nature by reason of an advanced old age; but on the contrary a craving stomach, even upon a death-bed, as in Isaac: nor no sicknesses but those that were both the first and the last, which proceeded from the struggles of nature, which abhorred the dissolution of soul and body; no physicians to prescribe for the sick, nor no apothecaries to compound medicines for two thousand years and upwards. Food and physick were then one and the same thing.

“But when men began to pass from a vegetable to an animal diet, and feed on flesh, fowls, and fish, then seasonings grew necessary, both to render it more palatable and savoury, and also to preserve that part which was not immediately spent from stinking and corruption: and probably salt was the first seasoning discover’d; for of salt we read, Gen. xiv.

“And this seems to be necessary, especially for those who were advanced in age, whose palates, with their bodies, had lost their vigour as to taste, whose digestive faculty grew weak and impotent; and thence proceeded the use of soops and savoury messes; so that cookery then began to become a science, though luxury had not brought it to the height of an art. Thus we read, that Jacob made such palatable pottage, that Esau purchased a mess of it at the extravagant price of his birthright. And Isaac, before by his last will and testament he bequeathed his blessing to his son Esau, required him to make some savoury meat, such as his soul loved, i.e., such as was relishable to his blunted palate.

“So that seasonings of some sort were then in use; though whether they were salt, savoury herbs, or roots only; or spices, the fruits of trees, such as pepper, cloves, nutmeg; bark, as cinnamon; roots, as ginger, &c., I shall not determine.

“As for the methods of the cookery of those times, boiling or stewing seems to have been the principal; broiling or roasting the next; besides which, I presume scarce any other were used for two thousand years and more; for I remember no other in the history of Genesis.

“That Esau was the first cook, I shall not presume to assert; for Abraham gave order to dress a fatted calf; but Esau is the first person mentioned that made any advances beyond plain dressing, as boiling, roasting, &c. For though we find indeed, that Rebecca his mother was accomplished with the skill of making savoury meat as well as he, yet whether he learned it from her, or she from him, is a question too knotty for me to determine.

“But cookery did not long remain a simple science, or a bare piece of housewifry or family ceconomy, but in process of time, when luxury entered the world, it grew to an art, nay a trade; for in I Sam. viii. 13. when the Israelites grew fashionists, and would have a king, that they might be like the rest of their neighbours, we read of cooks, confectioners, &c.

“This art being of universal use, and in constant practice, has been ever since upon the improvement; and we may, I think, with good reason believe, is arrived at its greatest height and perfection, if it is not got beyond it, even to its declension; for whatsoever new, upstart, out-of-the-way messes some humourists have invented, such as stuffing a roasted leg of mutton with pickled herring, and the like, are only the sallies of a capricious appetite, and debauching rather than improving the art itself.

“The art of cookery, &c., is indeed diversified according to the diversity of nations or countries; and to treat of it in that latitude would fill an unportable volume; and rather confound than improve those that would accomplish themselves with it. I shall therefore confine what I have to communicate within the limits of practicalness and usefulness, and so within the compass of a manual, that shall neither burthen the hands to hold, the eyes in reading, nor the mind in conceiving.

“What you will find in the following sheets, are directions generally for dressing after the best, most natural, and wholesome manner, such provisions as are the product of our own country, and in such a manner as is most agreeable to English palates: saving that I have so far temporized, as, since we have to our disgrace so fondly admired the French tongue, French modes, and also French messes, to present you now and then with such receipts of French cookery, as I think may not be disagreeable to English palates.

“There are indeed already in the world various books that treat on this subject, and which bear great names, as cooks to kings, princes, and noblemen, and from which one might justly expect something more than many, if not most of these I have read, perform, but found my self deceived in my expectations; for many of them to us are impracticable, others whimsical, others unpalatable, unless to depraved palates; some unwholesome, many things copied from old authors, and recommended without (as I am persuaded) the copiers ever having had any experience of the palatableness, or had any regard to the wholesomness of them; which two things ought to be the standing rules, that no pretenders to cookery ought to deviate from. And I cannot but believe, that those celebrated performers, notwithstanding all their professions of having ingenuously communicated their art, industriously concealed their best receipts from the publick.

“But what I here present the world with is the product of my own experience, and that for the space of thirty years and upwards; during which time I have been constantly employed in fashionable and noble families, in which the provisions ordered according to the following directions, have had the general approbation of such as have been at many noble entertainments.

“These receipts are all suitable to English constitutions and English palates, wholesome, toothsome, all practicable and easy to be performed. Here are those proper for a frugal, and also for a sumptuous table, and if rightly observed, will prevent the spoiling of many a good dish of meat, the waste of many good materials, the vexation that frequently attends such mismanagements, and the curses not unfrequently bestowed on cooks with the usual reflection, that whereas God sends good meat, the devil sends cooks.

“As to those parts that treat of confectionary, pickles, cordials, English wines, &c., what I have said in relation to cookery is equally applicable to them also.

“It is true, I have not been so numerous in receipts as some who have gone before me, but I think I have made amends in giving none but what are approved and practicable, and fit either for a genteel or a noble Table; and altho’ I have omitted odd and fantastical messes, yet I have set down a considerable number of receipts.

“The treatise is divided into ten parts: cookery contains above an hundred receipts, pickles fifty, puddings above fifty, pastry above forty, cakes forty, creams and jellies above forty, preserving an hundred, made wines forty, cordial waters and powders above seventy, medicines and salves above two hundred; in all near eight hundred.

“I have likewise presented you with schemes engraven on copper-plates for the regular disposition or placing the dishes of provision on the table according to the best manner, both for summer and winter, first and second courses, &c.

“As for the receipts for medicines, salves, ointments, good in several diseases, wounds, hurts, bruises, aches, pains, &c., which amount to above two hundred, they are generally family receipts, that have never been made publick; excellent in their kind, and approved remedies, which have not been obtained by me without much difficulty; and of such efficacy in distempers, &c., to which they are appropriated, that they have cured when all other means have failed; and a few of them which I have communicated to a friend, have procured a very handsome livelihood.

“They are very proper for those generous, charitable, and Christian gentlewomen that have a disposition to be serviceable to their poor country neighbours, labouring under any of the afflicted circumstances mentioned; who by making the medicines, and generously contributing as occasions offer, may help the poor in their afflictions, gain their good-will and wishes, entitle themselves to their blessings and prayers, and also have the pleasure of seeing the good they do in this world, and have good reason to hope for a reward (though not by way of merit) in the world to come.

“As the whole of this collection has cost me much pains and a thirty years’ diligent application, and I have had experience of their use and efficacy, I hope they will be as kindly accepted, as by me they are generously offered to the publick: and if they prove to the advantage of many, the end will be answered that is proposed by her that is ready to serve the publick in what she may.”

ornament

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hazlitt/william_carew/h431o/chapter3.html

Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:42