Wednesday, August 29, 2007

0 Isabella Beeton, Mother of the "Modern" Cookbook

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I'd like to recommend a quirky little movie I saw the other night called The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton.

Appropriately enough, the movie's a biopic on the life of Isabella Mary Beeton (1836-1865), spirited British authoress of the famous Victorian cookbook & household management guidebook, Mrs Beeton's Book of House Management.

As the title suggests, the book is a guide on how to run an efficient household, providing, among other things, a compendium of over 900 recipes; the book was a best seller (selling almost two million copies by 1868) and was considered the authoritative guide of its time. It set the standard for recipe formatting that we still use to this day: The ingredients were listed first, followed by the instructions & special notes.

This apparently wasn't always the case! I'm sure the average Cro-magnon woman might've scratched out a few notations on a nearby tree, but there probably weren't too many guidebooks around back in those days to tell you at what temperature you should roast the saber tooth tiger kebabs. ;-)

I won't reveal any other details, as I don't want to spoil the movie for those who are interested but haven't yet seen it.

BBC & PBS will probably replay the movie, so you can simply TiVo the title to catch it the next time it rolls around. Or just rent it on Netflix or some other movie service.

The movie was very interesting & entertaining. I highly recommend this movie, especially if you are interested to find out more about the life of Isabella Beeton, Victorian history & cooking, & of course, the experience of cookbook writing!


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