This book has been in print for some time( it was first published in 2003) but I thought I would recommend it to you here , now I have the opportunity so to do , and because I find it is one of the best books written on food in the long eighteenth century.
It is published by Prospect Books and Tom Jaine who runs the company should be knighted for services to food history. His catalogue of wonderful books make for rewarding and fine reading: most of them in his present an past catalogue are to be found on my book shelves, and I can highly recommend them to anyone keen to learn about the practical details of cookery performed in a long gone era.
Gilly Lehamn’s book is an extract from her doctoral dissertation. Despite its academic nature it is a very readable book, and is not dry as dust. Like most of my favourite historians she refers to Jane Austen as a source( though not as frequently as Amanda Vickery!) and that can’t be a bad thing. I do tend to favour a writers who appreciate Jane Austen’s accuracy I recording life in the late 18th can early 19th century.
This book will teach you all you really need to know about the food styles of the 18th century( the rage for French food versus plain English fare),how it was eaten and how recipes etc were disseminated throughout the 18th century.
Though she concentrates on the cookery books of the era, she also give us fabulous information(which is hard to find in books or on the net) on the authors of these books and their readership, detailing the types of person- from grand mistress to servants –who was intended to be the reader of the books.
She takes pains to tell us about the Tavern Cooks , like John Farley, Collinwood and Wollams (see their portraits above from my copy of The Universal Cook) celebrity chefs whose popular books were “ghost written” by a hack journalist: nothing really changes does it?
This book also provides , in one volume, delicious detail about the way meals were eaten,manners, customs, mealtimes, the ever changing time for diner throughout the century and what that said about your status, etc., etc. This helps explain Jane Austens despairing remark when writing to her sister Cassandra who was staying with Edward Knight at Godmersham in Kent, who was of course as Ms Lehman notes ”the rich member of the family”:
We dine now at half after three & have done diner I suppose before you begin-We drink tea at half after six.-I am afraid you will despise us.
The illustrations are few but what few there are ,are interesting, as in the reproduction of this frontispiece to Hannah Glasse’s1775 edition of The Art of Cookery:
When Tom Jaine announced the publication of this book, he predicted that “This is a biggy”. I can only agree….