You know me – I love reading about social and domestic history of times past, and so when I rediscovered this book on the TBR piles, it took my fancy. Plus, I had just been reminded of the (slightly younger) version of the U.S. domestic handbook by Catherine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe (pub. 1869) and so this book won the lottery of What-To-Read-Next.
This title is actually a collection of different pieces taken from Beeton’s well-known Book of Household Management, a valuable guide for the domestic householders of Victorian times and an intriguing social history document as seen through today’s eyes. It’s part of the Penguin Great Food Series which looks interesting in and of itself.
This post will be in a notes format as that seems to be the most sensible way to approach this:
- Morning calls (which actually happen after lunch) should be short (15-20 mins) and are required after a dinner party, ball, or picnic. The visiting lady may remove her boa and her neckerchief, but not her shawl or bonnet. (The latter being removed implies that the visitor is planning to stay much longer than the allotted time – what horrors!)
- About gargling at the dinner table: “The French and other continentals have a habit of gargling the mouth; [sic], but it is a custom which no English gentlewoman should in the slightest degree, imitate.”
- Re: “French beef”: “It is all but universally admitted that the beef of France is greatly inferior in quality to that of England, owing to inferiority of the pastures…”
- It’s recommended to serve boiled Brussels Sprouts in the shape of a pineapple: “A very pretty appearance…”
- Cucumbers should be “excluded from the regimen of the delicate” as it’s “neither nutrition or digestible…”
- Other options suggested for dinner parties: fried ox-feet/cow-heel, veal cake (“so convenient for picnics”) and lark pie (especially with lark tongues). Potted partridge is also another option.
- Ices/Sorbets: “The aged, delicate and children should abstain from ices or iced beverages… as they are apt to provoke indisposition” in the digestive process.
- Milk: “This bland and soothing article of diet is excellent for the majority of thin, nervous people.”
- Cheese: “A celebrated gourmand remarked that a dinner without cheese is like a woman with one eye.” Also, Stilton (which my dad used to love) was also called British Parmesan, but Beeton warns that “decomposing cheese” is “not wholesome eating, and the line must be drawn somewhere…” (My dad would wait until his Stilton was almost walking away and then he would eat it. Chuckle.)
As this post was getting somewhat unwieldy, I’ll end here and post Part Two at another time.
P.S. WordPress has changed. Wah. (Although I have no right to complain as it’s free.) :-}