29 March 2016

The Amateur Cook

The Amateur Cook by Katharine Burrill and Annie M. Booth is one of the most beautiful cookbooks out there.  It is illustrated with drawing by the famed children's book illustrator, Mable Attwell, which adds to its collectability.  The book is this strange amalgam of story, recipes, and illustrations that lend it to being often described as a children's book.

Published in 1905, it was perhaps meant to telegraph such feelings.  Burrill authored a collection of essays for young girls with good breeding entitled Corner Stones.  Booth wrote a cookbook, Simple Cookery.  Combined with drawings by Attwell, that might be a foregone conclusion. However, the illustrations seem to be of mostly grown-ups, the dedication of the book is for famed Shakespearean actress Ellen Terry. The recipes run the gamut from creamed rabbit to surprising sweetbreads, a cold preparation of ox brains with whipped cream and yellow and green aspic, so they are not terrible child friendly, nor some might say adult friendly!

Before the actual recipes begin, there are several chapters telling a story about women who can't cook and how they set out to be women who can cook. It is very odd. Every so often, within the recipes, the charters from the story make an appearance:

Edinburgh Fog

Take half pint of cream, mix with a little pounded sugar, and switch to a thick froth.  Mix in a good handful of ratafia biscuits and chopped, blanched sweet almonds with the cream,  Flavor with vanilla and pile up in a crystal dish.

'That last dish, Delecta, sounds rather like the "little Cupids" sopped in brandy that Miss Barker gave the ladies in Cranford.'

Delecta looks perfectly blank.  Her whole soul is set on cooking, and she brooks not interruption. I hasten to say, 'Never mind.' So she reads out the recipes for a pale-green luncheon.

Cranford was a very popular 19th century novel by Elizabeth Gaskell.

If you are a cookbook collector, this is one to seek out. It is becoming quite rare and a tad expensive.  But ask yourself, where else will you find an illustrated, novella, cookbook dedicated to a Shakespearean actress.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lucinda:)
    WOW! Now this sounds my kind of book. Charming yet standoffish in an odd way. I actually have a beautifully illustrated book by Mabel Attwell carefully framed and hanging on my wall in the living room. I hadn't heard of this book before so yes, I will be adding it to my collector list!

    Thank you so much for sharing, Lucinda, I LOVE learning about books I have never heard of before!!!

    P.S. I will be starting up Cookbook Wednesdays on my blog in April. You are more than welcome to link up your cookbook posts if you feel inclined:) We, of course, would love to have you!!!


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