The Campaign for Domestic Happiness – Isabella Beeton (1861) – Part One

book309You know me – I love reading about social and domestic history of times past, and so when I rediscovered this book on the TBR piles, it took my fancy. Plus, I had just been reminded of the (slightly younger) version of the U.S. domestic handbook by Catherine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe (pub. 1869) and so this book won the lottery of What-To-Read-Next.

beetonThis title is actually a collection of different pieces taken from Beeton’s well-known Book of Household Management, a valuable guide for the domestic householders of Victorian times and an intriguing social history document as seen through today’s eyes. It’s part of the Penguin Great Food Series which looks interesting in and of itself.

This post will be in a notes format as that seems to be the most sensible way to approach this:


  • Morning calls (which actually happen after lunch) should be short (15-20 mins) and are required after a dinner party, ball, or picnic. The visiting lady may remove her boa and her neckerchief, but not her shawl or bonnet. (The latter being removed implies that the visitor is planning to stay much longer than the allotted time – what horrors!)
  • About gargling at the dinner table: “The French and other continentals have a habit of gargling the mouth; [sic], but it is a custom which no English gentlewoman should in the slightest degree, imitate.”


  • Re: “French beef”: “It is all but universally admitted that the beef of France is greatly inferior in quality to that of England, owing to inferiority of the pastures…”
  • It’s recommended to serve boiled Brussels Sprouts in the shape of a pineapple: “A very pretty appearance…”
  • Cucumbers should be “excluded from the regimen of the delicate” as it’s “neither nutrition or digestible…”
  • Other options suggested for dinner parties: fried ox-feet/cow-heel, veal cake (“so convenient for picnics”) and lark pie (especially with lark tongues). Potted partridge is also another option.


  • Ices/Sorbets: “The aged, delicate and children should abstain from ices or iced beverages…stilton as they are apt to provoke indisposition” in the digestive process.
  • Milk: “This bland and soothing article of diet is excellent for the majority of thin, nervous people.”
  • Cheese: “A celebrated gourmand remarked that a dinner without cheese is like a woman with one eye.” Also, Stilton (which my dad used to love) was also called British Parmesan, but Beeton warns that “decomposing cheese” is “not wholesome eating, and the line must be drawn somewhere…” (My dad would wait until his Stilton was almost walking away and then he would eat it. Chuckle.)

As this post was getting somewhat unwieldy, I’ll end here and post Part Two at another time.

P.S. WordPress has changed. Wah. (Although I have no right to complain as it’s free.) :-}


Readin’, Readin’, Readin’….

It’s been slightly tough for me to find a book that I absolutely adore lately – one that I hate to put down for a break (and to do life things). There was a great read in David Grann’s The Devil and Sherlock Holmes (post to come), but then I was faffing about trying to read some Halloween-ish writing. I had enjoyed the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe earlier in the summer, so picked up a huge collection of his work and read some of those. However, I didn’t seem to find any that were half as a good as the short stories I had read earlier and I wasn’t ready to plough through his verbose writing. So – took that book back to the library.

Now, I am trying my first real ghost story – “The Woman in Black” by Susan Hill. I have not read her fiction before, but have really enjoyed her non-fiction writing so I have hopes. I am just not very sure how much courage I have with the scary stuff though. It can’t be too over-the-top though as this book has been made into a play in London, so perhaps it’s more spine-tingling than anything.

Been messing about choosing a classic to read, but I think I am going to start another Elizabeth Gaskell (except this one is not as well-known as Cranford): Mary Barton. I do enjoy Gaskell’s writing so fingers crossed for a good read in this title.

Finished up an earlier Anne Tyler (“Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant”) which was a good read but I have absolutely nothing to comment about it. It’s a solid read, but a bit forgettable (to me). Sorry – I know that Tyler has legions of fans out there, and she is a good writer. It’s just this one didn’t really provoke any serious thoughts of any kind.

And then – trumpet volley indicated here – it’s getting closer to the Friends of the Library booksale event (at the end of October), and I have been clearing some old titles off the shelves to make some room for whatever I happen to come across there. (You know – in case I find a book I want…)

TV-wise, we are now thoroughly addicted to the ITV-TV production of “Doc Martin” about a cantankerous physician who moves from London to a small village in Cornwall due to his fear of blood. (He was a surgeon before.) Just a solidly good drama with interesting and believable characters set in a very picturesque Cornish village where there is never a cold rainy winter day. It does rain, a bit, but  only on warm days as the producers are very serious about portraying this village as an Edenic bliss so it’s rather nice to watch and pretend that it doesn’t really get very cold, damp and rainy in England during the winter. 🙂

Oh, and cooked up a batch of red velvet cup cakes (courtesy of Duncan Hines), and I do admit: they taste great but oh my god – a face only a mother could love. Why did they not come out like the pictures on the box when I did *exactly* (sort of) what was asked of me as cook?

Notice how in the box pic, the icing is all thick and fluffy. (Not in real life.) Notice how in the box pic, there are no big gaping holes in the tops of the cakes (where I was instructed to jam the icing bag in). Not in real life.  Notice how the cakes are quite white on the top with the icing in the box. (Not in real life especially after one day and they get red and all streaky somewhat appropriate for Halloween, one thinks).

Possible reasons (and this is just me thinking aloud here)… :

  • I *might* have forgotten to adjust the temp on the oven since we found out it was 25 degrees off by using an oven thermometer the other day…
  • I *may* have overstirred the icing just a tad (a little too enthusiastic but it looked very pretty in the bowl so I just kept stirring…)
  • I may have been just a* bit* impatient and not waited for the cup cakes to cool down enough from the over and thus melt their icing coats…

Conclusion:  Just another excuse to cook up another batch, methinks.

I am going to weigh 500 lbs by the time I get this baking thing sorted out. I suffer for my soup. 🙂