Friday, November 1, 2013

The New London Family Cook

I am an indifferent cook--or a good, plain cook--depending upon who you talk to. I'm not greatly interested in food, and so I have no more than a passing interest in modern-day cookbooks. But period cookbooks? Now those I find interesting--fascinating in fact.

I've discovered a new one at Google Books.
The book was written by one Duncan McDonald (spelled variously) purported to be Head Cook at the Bedford Tavern and Hotel of Covent-Garden.

Mr. McDonald, it seems to me, knew what he was doing. The book truly is, as is claimed in the Conclusion, a Complete System of Domestic Economy. Every necessity for a household is discussed--from menus, recipes, table settings, butchering and carving, to sick rooms, servants' instructions and marketing.

Among the plethora of information I found several things particularly interesting and unique among the cookbooks of the era that I have seen in my own research. 'Bills of Fare' encompass dozens of pages and offer menu suggestions based on seasonal availabilities and number of guests. The supper offerings alone require nine pages.

The diagrams of desert [sic] tables are charming, and the contents of those offerings are very interesting.
Please click on the illustration below for a larger version that you can read more easily.
 
The most interesting, and unusual, items in the New London Family Cook are the articles about marketing and tradesmen. The book offers:
 And it supplies a critique of each market, with comments such as:
Shepherd's Market, towards the west end of Oxford Street, contains nothing out of the ordinary way.

St. James's Market, near St. James's Square, is well supplied with all sorts of provisions."
The New London Family Cook also offers:
In my last blog I discussed The Commercial Directory for some of the northern cities and towns of England. This London directory offers much the same sort of information, but has the benefit of suggesting retailers hand-picked by the author. This is the kind of personal recommendation any London householder would appreciate.
For example,
 Alchorne & Bingley, Oil and Colourmen, 18, Aldgate High-street
 Batley & Co., Drug-grinders, Sewall-street, Goswell-street
 Wm. Elliott, Chinaman, 27, St. Paul's Churchyard
 Grant & Hurley, Carpet and Upholstery Warehouse, 226, Piccadilly
 Rich. Jones, Perfumer and Toyman, 25 Ludgate-street
 James Maunder, Brandy Merchant, 9, Crutched-friars
 Edward Russell, Biscuit-baker, 453, Strand
There are four pages of these recommendations!

There is so much of interest in this book, I am going on too long, but I must mention a couple more things. The illustration below I have not seen in another cookery book of the period.
There is a short section detailing the cuts of meat indicated on the animals. Venison and turtle are, of course, not as widely used today as they were during the Regency. The New London Family Cook even suggests the best places in London for obtaining venison:
Angel's, the corner of Gracechurch Street, Cornhill
Birch's, Cornhill, and
Rich's, at the bottom of Ludgate Hill

Finally, there are two suggested menus for ball-suppers in this book. (I discussed ball-suppers in a July blog post). I have added a menu for forty people, from the New London Family Cook, to that post.

Mr. McDonald's book certainly has inspired me. Perhaps I should use it to improve my own cooking skills, and widen my culinary horizons.

'Til next time,

Lesley-Anne

1 comment:

Marg Macdonald said...

I have this bookbut it does not show the date it was published. Mine is leather bound.