“The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy”

As a change of pace, I would like to direct your attention to a cookbook that was published in England in 1747 and continued in its many editions to be popular for nearly a century afterwards. It circulated in the American colonies and in the independent nation that followed. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson had copies. An edition was published in the United States in 1805. Written by “a Lady” who was in fact HANNAH GLASSE (1708-1770), it was titled The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy; Which far exceeds any Thing of the Kind yet published. In a note “To the Reader” Glasse explained that her book was written in a simple style as it was directed to servants and “the lower sort.”

To The Reader.
I believe I have attempted a branch of Cookery which nobody has yet thought worth their while to write upon: but as I have both seen, and found, by experience, that the generality of servants are greatly wanting in that point, therefore I have taken upon me to instruct them in the best manner I am capable; and, I dare say, that every servant who can but read will be capable of making a tolerable good cook, and those who have the least notion of Cookery cannot miss of being very good ones.

If I have not wrote in the high polite style, I hope I shall be forgiven; for my intention is to instruct the lower sort, and therefore must treat them in their own way. For example: when I bid them lard a fowl, if I should bid them lard with large lardoons, they would not know what I meant; but when I say they must lard with little pieces of bacon, they know what I mean. So, in many other things in Cookery, the great cooks have such a high way of expressing themselves, that the poor girls are at a loss to know what they mean: and in all Receipt Books yet printed, there are such an odd jumble of things as would quite spoil a good dish; and indeed some things so extravagant, that it would be almost a shame to make use of them, when a dish can be made full as good, or better, without them. . . .

Glasse went on to criticize the French for their extravagance.

A Frenchman in his own country will dress a fine dinner of twenty dishes, and all genteel and pretty, for the expence he will put an English lord to for dressing one dish. But then there is the little petty profit. I have heard of a cook that used six pounds of butter to fry twelve eggs; when every body knows (that understands cooking) that half a pound is full enough, or more than need be used; but then it would not be French. So much is the blind folly of this age, that they would rather be imposed on by a French booby, than give encouragement to a good English cook! . . .

I shall say no more, only hope my Book will answer the ends I intend it for; which is to improve the servants, and save the ladies a great deal of trouble.

More on the cookbook in the next post.

Read Glasse’s cookbook online HERE.


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