When my mother churned cream into butter in the 1930s, she didn’t refer to a cookbook to see how it was done. The recipe had been taught to her by her mother who had gained the knowledge from her mother. Whether the directions were ever written down for it, and dozens of other basic foods used daily in a home, is unknown.
If I could time travel back to 1910 when my grandmother was being taught how to make butter, cheese and soap, I’d stand next to great-grandmother and learn alongside her daughter. I’d ask questions and practise until I got it perfect. Then I’d write down the instructions and return to my time period to make these things from my own goat’s milk.
But I can’t do that. Instead, I look for books and Internet websites that share the recipes of long ago, before people bought knock-off butter (margarine) at super markets. During one of these searches, I came across Mrs. Beeton’s Household Management book written by the former Isabella Mayson.
Isabella Mary Mayson was born March 1836 in London, England. She attended school at Heidelberg, Germany, then returned home where she met and married Samuel Orchard Beeton in 1856. Beeton was a publisher of books and popular magazines, and Mayson wrote articles for his publications. Mrs. Beeton’s Household Management was published in October 1861. She died in January 1865 at the age of 28, after giving birth to her fourth child.
The book contains an array of information directed at women to guide them in running their homes. Although it is intended for households which could afford a kitchen maid, it’s interesting to read the thoughts and ideas of a woman in that era. My ancestors may not have been in her social circles, but they may have worked as a scullery maid in her kitchen. This book would provide an understanding of what the lower class were expected to earn, along with the work they were expected to perform.
The book contains information on various foods, animals and plants, recipes for meals and drinks, proper etiquette for dinner parties and treatment of household staff, as well as, directions in medicine and law.
Found in The Doctor chapter is the distinction between apoplexy and hysteria, which states “hysterics mostly happen in young, nervous, unmarried women; and are attended with convulsions, sobbing, laughter, throwing about of the body…”
This section also provides an interesting method of treating drowning victims. It explains some treatments utilised were not only useless but harmful, such as hanging the victim upside down by his heels. However, dousing the victim in warm baths, rubbing their body with flannel and tickling their nose with a feather are a few things that should be attempted to revive the casualty.
An overall look at some of the laws directly affecting the population is found in chapter 44. It provides details on buying property, renting and wills. Sane men and unmarried women over the age of twenty-one could leave their property to anyone, but married women and individuals under twenty-one were considered incapacitated.
Mrs. Beeton’s Household Management is available for free online at http://www.mrsbeeton.com.