Do you recognize the name Isabella Beeton? No worries if you don’t. Beeton is not very well known today, but in the 19th century she was a housewife’s best friend.
Beeton is the author of a cookbook entitled The Book of Household Management Comprising information for the Mistress, Housekeeper, Cook, Kitchen-Maid, Butler, Footman, Coachman, Valet, Upper and Under House-Maids, Lady’s-Maid, Maid-of-all-Work, Laundry-Maid, Nurse and Nurse-Maid, Monthly Wet and Sick Nurses, etc. etc.—also Sanitary, Medical, & Legal Memoranda: With a History of the Origin, Properties, and Uses of all Things Connected with Home Life and Comfort.
It was more than 1,000 pages long.
An Englishwoman, and the eldest of 21 children, she wrote a column on domestic management and cooking for a magazine owned by her husband. The articles were compiled into a book in 1861.
The audience for the guide was newly middle-class women who would not have learned in their formative years how to, for example, hire servants.
Beeton died in 1865. However, new books and updated editions of The Book of Household Management continued to be published long after her death. In fact, the book is still in print.
The recipes that appeared in The Book of Household Management were written for Beeton and some were plagiarized from other sources. They were accompanied by illustrations. Here is an example:
SUET CRUST, for Pies or Puddings.
- INGREDIENTS. — To every lb. of flour allow 5 or 6 oz. of beef suet, ½ pint of water.
Mode. — Free the suet from skin and shreds; chop it extremely fine, and rub it well into the flour; work the whole to a smooth paste with the above proportion of water; roll it out, and it is ready for use. This crust is quite rich enough for ordinary purposes, but when a better one is desired, use from ½ to ¾ lb. of suet to every lb. of flour. Some cooks, for rich crusts, pound the suet in a mortar, with a small quantity of butter. It should then be laid on the paste in small pieces, the same as for puff-crust, and will be found exceedingly nice for hot tarts. 5 oz. of suet to every lb. of flour will make a very good crust; and even ¼ lb. will answer very well for children, or where the crust is wanted very plain.
Average cost, 5d. per lb. (Source: PBS)
Here is an example of the advice being offered to housewives in a chapter called “The Mistress”:
AS WITH THE COMMANDER OF AN ARMY, or the leader of any enterprise, so is it with the mistress of a house. Her spirit will be seen through the whole establishment; and just in proportion as she performs her duties intelligently and thoroughly, so will her domestics follow in her path. Of all those acquirements, which more particularly belong to the feminine character, there are none which take a higher rank, in our estimation, than such as enter into a knowledge of household duties; for on these are perpetually dependent the happiness, comfort, and well-being of a family. In this opinion we are borne out by the author of “The Vicar of Wakefield,” who says: “The modest virgin, the prudent wife, and the careful matron, are much more serviceable in life than petticoated philosophers, blustering heroines, or virago queens. She who makes her husband and her children happy, who reclaims the one from vice and trains up the other to virtue, is a much greater character than ladies described in romances, whose whole occupation is to murder mankind with shafts from their quiver, or their eyes.” (Source: Mrs. Beeton)
Were these types of guides helpful or sexist? Leave a comment below.
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