#FoodMW – Small recipe book for a big appetite

Felicity Hebditch volunteers with the social history team at the Dorset County Museum, and has been researching this fascinating little recipe book ‘Domestic Cookery or Family Receipt Book’.

In it, Felicity finds out about the life of a domestic servant around 1850’s. Meals were prepared under conditions far removed from what we are now accustomed to…. uncovering stories from sparrow dumpling recipes to fuller’s earth with vinegar for pimples.

Front pages from Domestic Cookery

Front pages from Domestic Cookery

‘A Lady’ author

In the Museum’s collections is a small book ‘Domestic Cookery or Family Receipt Book’ written around 1850 by ‘A Lady’ as ‘a practical guide for housekeepers’. Who wrote it? Before Mrs. Beeton there was Eliza Acton (1799-1859), who was the first cookery writer to list the ingredients and the length of cooking time for her recipes. She produced ‘Modern Cookery for Private Families’ in 1845. Before Eliza Acton there was Maria Eliza Rundell who wrote ‘A New System of Domestic Cookery’ in 1806, an enormously successful publication which continued to be produced for fifty years after her death in updated versions. Domestic Cookery is probably a pirated edition of Rundell’s work.

An Experienced Cook and Confectioner

An Experienced Cook and Confectioner

Turtle for tea?

All the dishes are written from the point of view of a servant sending dishes to the dining room. These are substantial recipes for large households; ‘portable soup for travellers’ requires three large legs of veal and one of beef, the lean part of half a ham and a quarter of a pound of butter. Recipes are very meat based and the meat is not for the squeamish. The cook (or her assistant) was instructed to kill a pig, kill and draw ducks, skin eels, even kill and deal with a turtle. (The Earl of Verulam came home with a turtle in his coach, a surprise for his cook?) There is also ‘Artificial turtle’, Alice’s mock turtle. Our more ecological times regret their eating larks (‘a dozen or so’), and there is even a recipe for sparrow dumplings.

Many of the dishes are served with sauces thickened with bread rather than flour, as medieval cookery does, and yolks of egg. Wine is added sometimes, or lemons, and generous helpings of Cayenne pepper, ‘catchup’ (ketchup) or mushroom ‘catchup’, and always a good dollop of butter. Very few ‘receipts’ incorporate vegetables, though stews do have onions and carrots, and celery is added to several dishes. The vegetables are cooked in ‘a large quantity of water’; cauliflower is cooked in milk and water, but ‘spinage’ is only cooked for two minutes so wouldn’t have lost all its flavour.

Stew celery

Take off the outside and the green ends of your heads of celery, boil them in water till they are very tender, put in a slice of lemon, a little beaten mace, thicken it with a good lump of butter and flour, boil it a little, add a little cream, shake it over the fire till it be of a fine thickness, but do not let it boil.

Cooks needed to be able to control the fire or stove. The roasting of a piece of meat meant toasting it in front of the fire; to keep the fire at a constant heat for four or five hours was hard work, and the meat would have to be basted to prevent it from drying out. A number of dishes involve boiling and then finishing off with frying in butter. This presumably helped to send things in to dinner hot. The pots and pans were heavy and hard to clean. Various things are boiled in a tossing pan.

Medieval meals featured an amusing or stunning dish as a centre piece, like today’s birthday cake. The book’s author gives descriptions of dishes made with marzipan, a scene of baby chicks and a hen with straw made of lemon peel, a fish pond with marzipan fish floating on jelly, sugar spun to make a nest with marzipan eggs.

Another Soup Recipe - Green Peas Soup without Meat

Another Soup Recipe – Green Peas Soup without Meat

Domestic Goddess

There is no dashing down to shops to buy ready made goods. Home grown fruit and vegetables had to be turned into pickles or jam to preserve it. Hand cream had to be made of hog’s fat and hair restorative from honey and rosemary. Ink was made of galls, green copperas, gum arabic and a wine glass of brandy! And then there were the rats; Corks cut very thin, and fried or stewed in dripping and placed in the way of rats will be greedily devoured, and they will die of indigestion. They tried to solve medical conditions; to cure worms with turpentine and egg, fuller’s earth with vinegar for pimples. Mutton suet was the best thing to keep irons from going rusty, tea leaves for sweeping carpets and fine carpets had to be swept ‘on the knees’.

Hard work!

  • Follow @dorsetmuseum Twitter for #museumweek 19-25 June 2017 which this year highlights women in museums.

Exploring museums worldwide with #MuseumWeek 2017

#MuseumWeekDorset County Museum will join museums and galleries across the World on Twitter for #MuseumWeek, a project that will connect people to artwork, culture, history and science in new and interactive ways.

#MuseumWeek 2017 will take place from Monday 19th  – Sunday 25th June 2017 and will give Twitter users direct and unparalleled access to some of the international leading museums and the people behind them in 140-characters bursts.

Last year, audiences have been able to engage with a massive, wide and versatile cultural production: in one week, 664.000 tweets were seen more than 294 million times!


Follow us @DorsetMuseum

Dorset County Museum will join other UK organisations already signed up include the Science Museum (@sciencemuseum), the Natural History Museum (@NHM_London), the Victoria and Albert Museum (@V_and_A), the British Museum (@britishmuseum), and the Tate (@Tate).

Dorset County Museum will join other Museums across the world by including the hashtag #MuseumWeek in their Tweets for the week, meaning users can follow along on Twitter.


7 days, 7 themes, 7 hashtags!

In addition, every day there will be a different theme.

A tribute to women


#MuseumWeek is committed to the cause of gender equality, so they have decided to dedicate 2017 to all women in the World. Thus, on top of the regular daily hashtags mentioned here below, we would really love to see some of your publications around the “Women and Culture” theme with #WomenMW, whenever you can during the week. Contents related to this theme will have more chances to be republished on our official channels!

#FoodMW – Monday 19 June

Who doesn’t love visiting Museum cafés? After a visit there’s nothing better than sitting back and taking it all in with a coffee, but what food related art or exhibits actually in the museum is there anything you particularly love? Or is that café chocolate cake just a work of art in itself! Share today with #FoodMW!

#SportsMW – Tuesday 20 June

Sometimes it feels like we have to be an Olympic hurdler just to get over the daily obstacles put in our way, but what about the sports related items in our collections? Do you have something iconic, important locally or just plain odd that relates to sports? Share today with #SportsMW

#MusicMW – Wednesday 21 June

Did you know 21st June is officially #MusicDay2017! What music or song reminds you of an item in your collection? Do you have items relating to a famous musician or instruments on show or in storage that could be revealed? Share with #MusicMW today!

 #StoriesMW – Thursday 22 June

Who doesn’t love a story? Share stories about your institution, collections, pieces of Art or any objects! Or do you have something related to fairy tales or a famous story that’s been told….or still to tell? Remember that visitors also have stories to share too, involve them as much as possible! Share with #StoriesMW

#BooksMW – Friday 23 June

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” – What books do you have in your collection? Why are they important or interesting? What books have inspired items in your collection? Is there something once owned by an author? Do you have books in your Museum shop? What’s the best seller? #BooksMW! Pssst, don’t forget the Bookselfies and bookshelfies!

#TravelsMW – Saturday 24 June

Many museums and collections were formed as a result of travels, what items in your collection have arrived at the museum from someone travelling? What about how travelling has changed? From early sea vessels to the first bicycles, share these collections today with #TravelsMW

#HeritageMW – Sunday 25 June

Celebrating and preserving heritage is our work of every day. What do you do for helping your audience to increase access to and to sustain heritage collections? Do you also have valuable collections in storage or online? In all its forms, heritage crystallizes our past and stimulates creativity; they are linked to culture and environment of our families, communities and nations. That is why we should protect them and pass them to the future generations. Celebrate them today with #HeritageMW.


Follow our #MuseumMascot @PliosaurKevan

A full list of participating UK organisations can be viewed here museum-week.org

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