Isabella Beeton (1836 – 1865)

isabellaAnd now for a completely different lady. She was not a revolutionary; she didn’t travel to far off places. She was an ordinary middle class housewife who dedicated her short life to the house and family and decided to share her experience with others. Perhaps she’s not as famous as Pellegrino Artusi in Italy (La Scienza in cucina e l’Arte di mangiare bene) but in 1859 Isabella Beeton wrote “Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management”the most famous English domestic manual ever . Artusi was a gourmet, or ‘foodie’ as we would say today, and concentrated on recipes while Mrs Beeton probably never invented a recipe in her life. She just collected them in her book together with practical advice for household jobs which a man would have known nothing about. She considered the woman as queen of the domestic sphere and the man as king of the public sphere.

Yes Mrs Beeton knew it all! She explains in her own words why she wrote the book:

What moved me, in the first instance, to attempt a work like this, was the discomfort and suffering which I had seen brought upon men and women by household mismanagement. I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly cooked dinners and untidy ways. Men are now so well served out of doors – at their clubs, well-ordered taverns, and dining-houses – that, in order to compete with the attraction of these places, a mistress must be thoroughly acquainted with the theory and practice of cookery, as well as be perfectly conversant with all the other arts of making and keeping a comfortable home.