Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine eBook

William Carew Hazlitt
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 170 pages of information about Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine.

Mrs. Johnstone imparted a novel feature to her book by investing it with a fictitious history and origin, which, like most inventions of the kind, is scarcely consistent with the circumstances, however it may tend to enliven the monotony of a professional publication.

After three prefaces in the fourth edition before me (8vo, 1829) we arrive at a heading, “Institution of the Cleikum Club,” which narrates how Peregrine Touchwood, Esquire, sought to cure his ennui and hypochondria by studying Apician mysteries; and it concludes with the syllabus of a series of thirteen lectures on cookery, which were to be delivered by the said Esquire.  One then enters on the undertaking itself, which can be readily distinguished from an ordinary manual by a certain literary tone, which certainly betrays a little the hand or influence of Scott.

But though the present is a Scottish production, there is no narrow specialism in its scheme.  The title-page gives a London publisher as well as an Anglo-Athenian one, and Mrs. Johnstone benevolently adapted her labours to her countrywomen and the unworthier Southrons alike.

I imagine, however, that of all the latter-day master-cooks, Alexis Soyer is most remembered.  His “Gastronomic Regenerator,” a large and handsome octavo volume of between 700 and 800 pages, published in 1846, lies before me.  It has portraits of the compiler and his wife, and many other illustrations, and is dedicated to a Royal Duke.  It was produced under the most influential patronage and pressure, for Soyer was overwhelmed with engagements, and had scruples against appearance in print.  He tells us that in some library, to which he gained access, he once found among the works of Shakespeare and other chefs in a different department, a volume with the words “Nineteenth Edition” upon it, and when he opened it, he saw to his great horror “A receipt for Ox-tail Soup!” Why this revelation exercised such a terrifying effect he proceeds to explain.  It was the incongruity of a cookery book in the temple of the Muses.  But nevertheless, such is the frailty of our nature, that he gradually, on regaining his composure, and at such leisure intervals as he could command, prepared the “Gastronomic Regenerator,” in which he eschewed all superfluous ornaments of diction, and studied a simplicity of style germane to the subject; perchance he had looked into Kitchener’s Preface.  He lets us know that he had made collections of the same kind at an earlier period of his career, but had destroyed them, partly owing to his arduous duties at the Reform Club, and partly to the depressing influence of the nineteenth edition of somebody else’s cookery book—­probably, by the way, Ude’s.  The present work occupied some ten months, and was prepared amid the most stupendous interruptions from fair visitors to the Club (15,000), dinners for the members and their friends (25,000), dinner parties of importance (38), and the meals for the staff (60). 

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Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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