[England], c. 1835.
Quarto: 20.5 x 16.3 cm. 104 pp. of text (numbered inconsistently in ink), approx. 20 lines per full page.
Bound in contemporary blind-ruled vellum, with the contemporary signature ‘Anne Michel’ inked prominently on the upper cover, covers a trifle bowed, the odd small ink spot. A very good, clean copy. Written in an English cursive hand in black ink, very minor toning, first recto and last verso minimally dusty, ff. With an additional 30 blank leaves blank, 1st leaf of text as a pastedown, rear endpaper with partial index), 7 leaves at rear removed (stubs visible).
An early 19th-century English recipe book, with dozens of recipes for all kinds of food as well as for the making of chemical products for household use. The presumed compiler, Anne Michel, signed her name on the upper cover and added an index for easier consultation to the endpapers. A few accounts at rear, probably in the same hand, mention the years 1835. On the rear flyleaf are two London addresses: that of a wine and brandy merchant in Southwark, and another address in Covent Garden.
Food recipes include ground rice pudding, jelly, cream, ‘blamange’, white chocolate, New College pudding, ratafia, fish, soups, beef and even mangoes, as well as tincture of rhubarb (a laxative) and ‘Mrs. Richards’s gout cordial’, with coriander, saffron, rhubarb and caraway seeds. The author scattered among food recipes a few for chemical products used in everyday life. For instance, an entry explains how to produce ‘Masons Wash for colouring rooms’ by boiling ‘blue vitriol’ (7 lb for one room 16 feet sq) and ‘Spanish whiting’ in a pan. Another entry shows how to produce dye for stockings with cochineal powder and alum, and two more explain procedures to polish tables and wash blond lace.
One of the most interesting recipes is one for curry, from ‘Mrs. Williams of Jamaica’, perhaps a servant or cook at a neighboring house, or an obscure printed source. It requires ‘strong beef’, curry powder ‘to make it yellow’, Madeira wine, one anchovy and chicken, all to be served with ‘sufficiently boil’d’ rice. By the late 18th century, Indian curry had become familiar to the English middle class, also thanks to cookbooks, so much so that pre-ground commercial curry powder began to be sold in the 1780s. Indian curry in England ‘was a re-creation of India – a dish made without the readily available spices, ingredients, and native cooks of India’ (Maroney, pp.126, 123, 129).
The present notebook was most probably produced not too long after the Hindostanee Coffee-House, the first Indian restaurant, opened in London. It is intriguing to wonder whether, given the source, this curry was based on a Jamaican, rather than Indian, recipe, though curry did not become a common dish in Jamaica before the 1840s. Mrs. Williams also provided a recipe for mock turtle soup. (See: S.R. Maroney, ‘“To Make a Curry the India Way”: Tracking the Meaning of Curry Across Eighteenth-Century Communities’, Food and Foodways, 19 (2011), pp.122-34.).