April 2008 – Mrs Beeton

The W.I. and Corncockles coffee morning held on April 1st in memory of Hilary Barker raised over £700 for the charity EACH (East Anglian Children’s Hospice). Many thanks to all who participated.
We were very sad to hear of the death of Joan Robinson, a previous president of Kirton and Falkenham W.I.. When, some time ago, our W.I. was threatened with closure Joan was instrumental in contriving a plan to keep us open, so we have much to thank her for. We will remember her with respect and affection.
Mr Tyler takes as the subject for his talks food and recipes from early Victorian times up to the present day. On the occasion of our April meeting he concentrated on the famous authoress Mrs Isabella Beeton.
Mrs Beeton wrote cookery books and books on household management but was personally not a very good cook. Her genius was as an editoress and compiler of recipes and household hints from other books including some in German and French. Some of her recipes are still in use today, and she was the first cookery writer to include a list of ingredients separated from the method of preparation, a scheme still followed.
Her books were intended as a guide to someone in charge of a well-to-do household as demonstrated by her instructions for organizing a picnic for 40 people. The menu included joints of beef and lamb, veal and ham pies, ducks, pigeon pies and ‘collared’ calf’s head, whatever that is. Then there were 18 lettuces, 6 baskets of salad, plus 6 cucumbers, stewed fruit in glass jars, 3 to 4 dozen biscuits, 2 dozen cheese cakes, 2 cabinet puddings and many more items. To drink there would be bottles of ale, ginger beer, sherry, claret, brandy and champagne, and not to be forgotten – 6 sticks of horse radish, mint sauce, and if possible some packed ice and large amounts of crockery and cutlery. To put all this in operation must have been like mounting a trans-continental expedition!
All in all this prolific writer led an extraordinary productive life, managing to give birth to 4 children in between her other activities. She died at the shockingly early age of 28.
V E Bines


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