Saturday, August 8, 2015

Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine

William Carew Hazlitt - Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine (1886)

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The title is pretty accurate for this mix of bibliography and cooking instructions.  Hazlitt (grandson of the Hazlitt) starts by complaining how much his topic has been overlooked (some things never change) before launching into a look at early British food.  The section on books is probably of more interest to book hounds than cooks focusing as it does on dates, editions, publishers, variations.  I love this kind of thing and likely anybody reading this blog is at least inclined in that direction.

A large part of the book is extracts about various dishes, too random to provide much historical context but certainly of interest for the strangeness.  Some dishes are similar to modern ones and wouldn't raise an eye.  I've never heard of whetstone or Shrewsbury cakes but wouldn't think anything odd if one was set before me.  Others, though, are elaborate to the point of being bizarre.  On p108 you'll find a Pulpatoon of Pigeons which includes pigeons, oysters, veal, marrow, eggs, anchovies and assorted seasonings in something of a pie.  A Tureiner (p103) has butter, beef-steaks, bacon, eggs, chicken, rabbits, pigeons, tongue - the list goes on so long I wonder if it's some kind of parody.  Wormwood cakes (p130) sound dubious - apart from the named ingredient it includes cochineel, allum, cream of tartar and saffron (all his spellings).

Remaining parts of the book cover physical aspects of kitchens, cooking attire, how the use of seasonings developed, and whatever else the author felt like throwing in.

This Hazlitt is a subject for further research.  His other titles include a history of the Venetian republic and books on Tudor and Stuart drama, book and coin collecting, humorous literature, proverbs, the Lamb family, fairy tales, London livery companies and many others.  He edited Shakespeare Jest-Books which hasn't yet fallen into book obscurity.  (I have a print copy.)

Note that this must be an early scan since the quality isn't always the best.