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Hannah Glasse's "The art of Cookery", Probably the Most-Widely Read English Cookery Book of the 18th Century


In 1747 English writer on cookery, Hannah Glasse published The Art of Cookery. This work became one of the most widely read cookbooks in England and America for about 100 years.

"Hannah wrote mostly for domestic servants (the "lower sort", as she referred to them), writing in a conversational style familiar to anyone who has learned a recipe at the elbow of a parent or grandparent. The food is surprisingly recognizable, with staples such as Yorkshire pudding and gooseberry fool still known and eaten today, and there are even early traces of the Indian food that eventually became naturalized in the UK. She showed marked disapproval of French cooking styles and in general avoided French culinary terminology" (Wikipedia article on The Art of Cookery, accessed 06-07-2009).

"By the time Hannah Glasse published her first cookery book in 1747 the urban middle classes were almost universally literate and had cash to burn. They were also acutely aware that fortunes were easier to earn than respectability and social status. Prosperous merchants, lawyers, shopkeepers and tradesmen were desperate in the mid-18th Century to show off their new wealth and to establish themselves within society. Hannah Glasse gave them the ticket to social respectability by providing middle class women with a no-nonsense cookery books that gave them the ticket out of the kitchen and into a life of leisure. Even if the women of London’s burgeoning mercantile class could not quite replicate the life of leisure led by the gentry and nobility, they were now about to eat in the style of those much higher up the social scale. Hannah was providing a guide to life.

"Between 1700 and 1789 over 500,000 copies of some 300 cookery books were published. The vogue for complicated books published by men was completely overtaken by the simple approach pioneered by Glasse and many female contemporaries. The success of the Art of Cookery is testament not only to the aspirational desires of the middle classes and the increased purchasing power of women, but also to the fact that a much wider spectrum of British society was beginning to enjoy eating. Discarding the extravagance and pomp of court food and French culinary techniques saw British cooking get back to basics – good ingredients, simple techniques, and quality dining available for all" (Wikipedia article on Hannah Glass, accessed 06-07-2009).

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