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Mrs Beeton, and a recipe

A couple of months ago I stumbled upon my dream book in a secondhand book store.

Despite the name, Mrs Beeton’s Household Management isn’t my dream book because I yearn for the upper echelons of hausfrauness or anything. I discovered an older version of the book in 2008, and since then I’ve been interested by it from a historical perspective. It was the first book to present recipes in the format we know them today, rather than the ingredients and process all together in a long, linear paragraph. And it provides a fascinating snapshot (if nearly 1,700 pages can be considered a snapshot) of a time when people made morning calls, managed servants, and served beef tea to sick people.

There’s no definitive statement of when this particular edition was published. A previous owner has written her name and the year 1944, but certain things made me believe this was already a few years old when she got it – references to “The War,” and nothing written about rationing, for example. Based on dates I found in the “Legal Memoranda” section (god I love this book), my best guess is that it was published in 1938 or very early 1939.

Following are several photos I took while doing my first couple of flip-throughs. I think I’m going to need a few months to really appreciate everything!

Another reason this is my dream book is that old recipes are a particular interest of mine. I love when they’re startlingly out of place with modern tastes and patience levels (there were a surprising amount of recipes involving sheep heads and brains, for example).

I couldn’t resist trying at least one recipe from this book. I chose to make “Buttered Eggs, Indian Style (Oeufs Brouillés à l’Indienne).” Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients – 3 hard-boiled eggs, 2 raw eggs, 1/2 an oz. of butter, curry-powder, salt and pepper, browned breadcrumbs.

Method – Cut the hard-boiled eggs across into rather thick slices, place them in a well-buttered gratin dish, or china baking-dish, in which they may be served, and sprinkle over them about 1/2 a teaspoonful of curry-powder and a few grains of cayenne. Beat the raw eggs slightly, season with salt and pepper, and pour them into the dish. Cover the surface lightly with browned breadcrumbs, put bits of butter here and there, and bake in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes. Serve as hot as possible.

Time – 10 minutes. Sufficient for 4 or 5 persons.

And here’s how it turned out (pardon the lighting; it’s no longer the good photographing-your-breakfast time of year):

It was actually pretty good! There was nothing very complicated to it, and it was different, but not as out there as Veal Olives, Baked Bullock’s Heart or Mushroom Ketchup.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Kat

    OMG, bananas with bacon baked in a greased paper bag. So great. One of my favourite books that I own is this old copy of Good Things in England- full of an amazing anthropological collection of recipes which are equal parts deeply charming and horiffic. So good. :)

    1. Samantha

      I know! That recipe is so crazy it just might work.

      I just went on a Google spree researching your Good Things in England book – it sounds so cool! Apparently it tells you how to dress a swan, too; yikes.

  2. Kali

    It sounds like a very interesting read indeed, I find it fascinating what the etiquette might have been at a certain time, in a certain society. You know, what is supposed to be the proper way and why. I’m sure you have a lot of material to discover little by little here :)

    1. Samantha

      While I’m glad my world doesn’t have quite so many rules in that way anymore, I could read about that stuff forever. It’s so interesting!