Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mrs Beeton and preparation for class

My graduate class on Victorian Bestsellers has reached Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management - not a text I'd ever thought to teach, but part of my crazy semester of only teaching books - with one exception - that I've never taught before.  I thought, last night, that I'd cook something for class from Mrs B.  Sunderland Ginger Nuts looked easy, and palatable.  So.  Apart from the fact that my weighing scales are in Santa Fe, and I had to use the lbs-into-cups translation chart at the back of The Joy of Cooking, I learned the following things
a) that either treacle and butter were much more runny in the 1850s, or Mrs B got her proportions very wrong
b) that a directive to soften treacle (or in my case, light treacle, aka Golden Syrup) and butter together is very vague.  Soften?  Do you mean melt, or what?
c) vague, also, is the description "a somewhat slow oven"
However, they seemed reasonably palatable, if solid, so I decided to take them in.  I placed them in the hall so as not to forget them.  Imagine my horror when I went upstairs five minutes later, to find that Walter Gomez had ripped into the silver foil, and had apparently chewed a little piece off one of them ...

Even more delightful was the pristine copy that one student had bought on line, bearing the inscription "SJ.  Welcome to wife-hood.  Here's the manual.  [heart] Maria.]"  So here's a mystery.  Is Maria one wife, and SJ - Sarah Jane - the other?  Did Maria give this to Stevie-John?  Or did Aunt Maria give this to her niece?  Any ways, this wasn't a much valued wedding present, methinks ...

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