Ben's Reviews > The Cook's Guide, and Housekeeper's

The Cook's Guide, and Housekeeper's by Charles Elmé Francatelli
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's review
Oct 14, 11

Okay, I have a dog-eared and disintegrating original copy of this book, much begreased by time, but you can get reprints. If you are a student of the 19th century (and the 18th, for that matter -- cookery didn't change much during the period) this book is tremendously useful for atmosphere.

Francatelli was Queen Victoria's personal chef and the original celebrity chef in many ways. This particular volume is arranged in an ingenious way -- it starts off with stocks, glazes, and sauces, then works its way up through soups and on to the most complex dishes -- so first you master 'glaze,' which is essentially mixed-meat bouillon, and go from there.

But what this book really does -- and any writer of period stuff will benefit from this -- is acquaint the reader with another world, when cooking was done directly with wood and coal fire, not gas rings and electric hobs. There were no blenders or refrigerators or any of that newfangled nonsense. Ingredients are measured in gills and drams; you'll find out what a 'leason' is, how to prepare Russian Kromeskys, the uses of an old chicken carcass, how to cook lamprey, and a wealth of other delights.

It also reveals what people thought meals should be like -- pickled fish at breakfast (of which the English kipper is a survival), huge disgusting jellies made from calf's head at supper. And nothing goes to waste with Mr. Francatelli. He tells you what to do with every particle of the food, regardless of its condition. If it's unfit to eat, it can probably be made into stock.

But get an original copy, if you can. There's something wonderful about books like this that saw action in a kitchen of the period. Just be careful when handling it -- it might contain lamprey juice.

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