Monday, July 26

Unbelievable Find

Once upon a time, before Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray, Ms. Manners, and Dear Abby, there was Isabella Beeton. Mrs. Beeton was the ultimate domestic goddess of the victorian era. For decades, women were given two books when they married: a Bible, and Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management. It was commonly assumed that they would encounter nothing in married life for which they would not find instruction in one of those two texts.

Understandbly, I was fascinated and wanted to get my hands on a copy. That's when I discovered something very disheartening; the "updated version" popularly available has had everything of use and interest edited out and the original version runs in the $300+ range. While it baffles me how a book so frequently printed and purchased could be so hard to find, all the bookstore owners and antique store proprietors I spoke to agreed: my only chance of finding such a book would be finding someone who didn't know what they had.

So while I continued to search, and my mom generously agreed to look while she was out and about, I didn't hold out much hope. So when she said she had a suprise for me and handed me a real original copy of Mrs. Beeton's I was stunned!! And delighted. And amazed. Even more so when she told me what a steal it was! She definitely found someone who didn't know what they had!

Yes, that is a complete calf's head in the illustration on the right. Some of the recipes in the book are wild! It's going to take a while to read, but the sheer breadth of information covered is incredible. Besides a comprehensive cookbook, it contains a primer on legal documents, a broad medical reference section, a handbook on managing household staff and a full guide to manners and hostessing for any social occasion you can think of. I am so excited to have my own copy!

I'll hold off on bubbling any more, since I'm sure they'll be lots more bubbling as I work my way through. In the meantime, lest everyone think I've nothing to do but leisure reading, I confess I've spent most of yesterday and today in the kitchen.

On the left is the beginnings of all natural vanilla extract. (Yes, I know. Bad picture makes it look like an alien in a bottle, but I promise it's not.) When it's done steeping, I will have 100% authentic vanilla extract at 1/10th the cost of the commercial equivalent. Whoo hoo!On the right is canned eggplant. At 75c a piece, the eggplant I picked up at the farmer's market on Saturday was unbeatable. Now it's safely canned up, ready to go into pasta, bruchetta, veggie lasagne or any number of other goodies this winter. Still waiting to be canned are peaches, strawberries, plums, onions and green beans. Thank goodness I'm married to a patient man who doesn't mind my playing in the kitchen!

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