I am pleased to welcome onto my blog this week, author Maria Grace. Maria is quite a lady having two graduate degrees, a husband, six cats and eight writing projects under her belt!
Maria is here to talk about Regency Cooking & House-Keeping so without further ado:
‘There’s an old saying: The more things change, the more they stay the same. I found that to be very true as I was reading my newest, or should I say oldest, favorite cookbook: New System of Domestic Cookery: Founded up Principles of Economy; and Adapted to the Use of Private Families, by Mrs. Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell (1745-December 16, 1828). ‘Mrs. Rundell’ as it was often referred to, was the most popular English cookbook of the first half of the nineteenth century. The first edition came out in 1806, several later editions were published with additions by other contributors.
At the time few books on domestic management were available. Mrs. Rundell collected tips and recipes for her three daughters from her thirty years’ experience running her household in Bath. Initially she planned to have four copies made but Jane Austen’s publisher got involved and the rest is, as they say, history.
She begins her cookbook with a rather length discussion of the need to manage a household properly. Her first recommendation is that the mistress of a household should be aware of the state of her household’s fortune and be careful to manage with a mind to her budget. How often does that bit of advice appear in ladies’ magazines of today? Language and style aside, Mrs. Rundell could have been writing for a publication of today.
Mrs. Rundell laments the effects of increasing prices. “Generally speaking, dinners are far less sumptuous than formerly, when half a dozen dishes were supplied for what one now costs; consequently those whose fortunes are not great, and who wish to make genteel appearance, without extravagance, regulate their table accordingly.” When we bemoan inflation at the grocery store, we are certainly standing in the shadow of our ancestors.
To cope with the effects of increasing prices and limited incomes, our dear mentor recommends careful accounting. To that end, she insists “few branches of female education are so useful as great readiness at figures.” Long before it was fashionable or popular, our Mrs. Rundell recommended that girls study math! Who would have guessed?
Not only were her educational recommendations forward thinking, but her practical suggestions were too. She recommends using cash not credit for every day purchases and argues that the use of credit “may have much evil influence on the price of various articles.” Likewise, she cautions ladies to avoid buying unnecessary articles just because they are good bargains. However, they should stock up on paper, soap and candles which keep well and are in constant consumption. Though for my household it would be toilet paper, laundry detergent and notebook filler paper, the advice remains sound.
One final point Mrs. Rundell makes left me laughing out loud, not because it was ridiculous, but rather because I had taught the very same advice in the budgeting and money management course my husband and I have taught over the years. She says, “Some people fix on stated sum to be appropriated to each different article and keep the money in separate purses.” Sounds remarkably like setting a budget for each category of spending and then setting aside that amount of money in separate envelopes, doesn’t it? I would never have guessed that bit of advice had been penned at least 200 years ago.
It just goes to show that there really is nothing new under the sun!
For anyone interested, replica editions of Mrs. Rundell’s book have been published and the original itself is available free on line: http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/cookbooks/html/books/book_03.cfm or
I used Mrs. Rundell’s book as a major reference in my newest release, ‘The Future Mrs. Darcy’. Come by my website, AuthorMariaGrace.com to sample a preview of the book, bonus chapters and a new story just for on line visitors.
Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful.
She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six cats, seven Regency-era fiction projects and notes for eight more writing projects in progress. To round out the list, she cooks for nine in order to accommodate the growing boys and usually makes ten meals at a time so she only cooks twice a month.
She can be contacted at: author.MariaGrace@gmail.com.
You can find her profile on Facebook: facebook.com/AuthorMariaGrace
Or on Amazon.com: amazon.com/author/mariagrace
or visit her website at AuthorMariaGrace.com
If you want them, these are buy links for my two books:
Darcy’s Decision http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006VZOSCO
The Future Mrs. Darcy http://www.amazon.com/Future-Darcy-Given-Principles-ebook/dp/B008H5UBEU ‘
Join me again to hear more about the Regency, next time from me, and more about my debut novel!