A year of somewhat exceptional experience—that involved in building up several cooking-schools in a new locality, demanding the most thorough and minute system to assure their success and permanence—showed the inadequacies of any existing hand-books, and the necessities to be met in making a new one. Thus the present book has a twofold character, and represents, not only the ordinary receipt or cook book, usable in any part of the country and covering all ordinary household needs, but covers the questions naturally arising in every lesson given, and ending in statements of the most necessary points in household science. There are large books designed to cover this ground, and excellent of their kind, but so cumbrous in form and execution as to daunt the average reader.
Miss Corson’s “Cooking-School Text-Book” commended itself for its admirable plainness and fullness of detail, but was almost at once found impracticable as a system for my purposes; her dishes usually requiring the choicest that the best city market could afford, and taking for granted also a taste for French flavorings not yet common outside of our large cities, and to no great extent within them. To utilize to the best advantage the food-resources of whatever spot one might be in, to give information on a hundred points suggested by each lesson, yet having no place in the ordinary cook-book, in short, to teach household science as well as cooking, became my year’s work; and it is that year’s work which is incorporated in these pages. Beginning with Raleigh, N.C., and lessons given in a large school there, it included also a seven-months’ course at the Deaf and Dumb Institute, and regular classes for ladies. Straight through, in those classes, it became my business to say, “This is no infallible system, warranted to give the whole art of cooking in twelve lessons. All I can do for you is to lay down clearly certain fixed principles; to show you how to economize thoroughly, yet get a better result than by the expenditure of perhaps much more material. Before our course ends, you will have had performed before you every essential operation in cooking, and will know, so far as I can make you know, prices, qualities, constituents, and physiological effects of every type of food. Beyond this, the work lies in your own hands.”
Armed with manuals,—American, English, French,—bent upon systematizing the subject, yet finding none entirely adequate, gradually, and in spite of all effort to the contrary, I found that my teaching rested more and more on my own personal experience as a housekeeper, both at the South and at the North. The mass of material in many books was found confusing and paralyzing, choice seeming impossible when a dozen methods were given. And for the large proportion of receipts, directions were so vague that only a trained housekeeper could be certain of the order of combination, or results when combined. So from the crowd of authorities was gradually eliminated a foundation for work; and on that foundation has risen a structure designed to serve two ends.