The Food Lovers' Cookbook Collection
The First Principles of Good Cookery by Lady Llanover
The First Principles of Good Cookery by Lady Llanover (Augusta Waddington) was written in the mid-19th century in Wales. Check out the excellent recipe for rhubarb and gooseberry jam cooked with heads of elderflowers and a simple garden vegetable soup that uses lettuce and old peas for the base and then fresh peas are added towards the end for added freshness of flavour.
The book is unique in its presentation as it takes the form of a discussion between a wise Welsh hermit and a traveller who happens by. The traveller mentions to the hermit how bad the food is in England and Ireland and they eventually come to an agreement. The traveller will travel for fourteen days and then return to the hermit and describe each of the meals he has had. The hermit will then cook each of these meals perfectly and explain how it is to be done. This sets the scene for the food discussions that follow.
When the traveller returns the hermit then proceeds to cook each meal and explains how he cooks the dishes and this is how the principles are conveyed including an explantation of why the meals that the traveller experienced were so bad. It is amazing how much information about cooking techniques are covered in this way. There are also appendices with more familiar recipe formats as well.
The style of the discussions reminds us somewhat of Voltaire's Candide where conversations between young Candide and his mentor Pangloss are used to convey Voltaire's ideas.
Here is the start of a classic 'double-boiled' chicken recipe:
"The Traveller saw his host take a dainty chicken ready trussed and weigh it - it was very fat, and the weight was three pounds and a half; it was then placed in a tin vessel, and one-fourth of a pint of spring water to every pound, and a sprinkling of salt. The vessel was then placed in an iron vessel, an inch larger in circumference, which is known in Wales, and called Ffwrn fach, in which boiling water was poured till it rose within an inch of the top. The inner and outer vessels, having their lids put on firmly, were placed on the slow heat of the Hermit's stove, where they remained undisturbed for nearly two hours.' He then goes on to describe how to make a parsley sauce for this chicken.
This is a fascinating book that conveys good information and is one of the first to offer such detailed information about techniques as well as ingredients and quantities.