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A Victorian Delight,
This review is from: Modern Cookery for Private Families (Classic Voices in Food) (Hardcover)
Modern Cookery for private families by Eliza Acton, published in 1845, so pre-dating the more well known Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management by sixteen years; in many ways, Modern Cookery was the precursor to Mrs Beeton, and one of the first cookbooks aimed at the housewife, rather than the professional chef. As such, it was intended to be comprehensive; there are 636 pages, each of which contains several recipes, so it's hard to imagine that much escaped coverage in its 34 chapters. This was also the first cookbook to list ingredients separately from the body of the description. The time that the recipe will take to prepare and cook is also included - as much of a help to modern cooks as it would have been to our Victorian forbears.
The book is stuffed with recipes that are miles away from what is commonly found today. Celery vinegar, lots of mutton recipes, the lady's sauce (for fish) merely show the range. There are also little jokes throughout - the publisher's pudding, which can scarcely be made too rich, compared to the poor author's pudding, or the printer's pudding. And then there is the elegant economist's pudding, a way of using up old plum pudding by lining a pudding basin with slices, filling it with custard and cooking.
Were I to choose a favourite recipe from this book, I think that actually I would go for a whole meal. As a classic book, it should be a classic meal: potted shimps, a beef-steak pie all followed by the welcome guest's own pudding. In contrast, I have little interest in either tapioca or sago soup.