A Book of Cookery, by a Lady
Kimberly Walters asked me to have a look at her new book A Book of Cookery, by a Lady. I felt honored to be asked. Who wouldn’t love it when an author of an new cookery book sends you a free copy to review. Kim is an amateur historian and started hearth cooking at Washington headquarters, as Mr. Elizabeth Thompson, the housekeeper.
Her writing style is very similar to what you would find in the 18th century, and can be a bit difficult to comprehend in the beginning, however, like the narrative as with the early cookery books, one gets the hang of it after a while.
In the foreword, Kimberly states that the main purpose of the book is to bring together many early 18th century receipts, techniques, measurements, etiquette, and equipment that have been printed elsewhere and compile them into one source for ease of use, and this she does.
However, this book also has historical commentary, and she strays a bit by having documents regarding George Washington scattered throughout the book. Mostly about his traveling war family and what they were eating at various times, as well as the equipage he ordered for serving food. Where this is interesting it does not follow what she proposed to do, and the book is a heavy 346 pages.
Yet for all that, this one’s worth a look. The recipes are drawn from a wide variety of historical cookbooks and other historical sources. And what George and Martha served while away at war are fun anecdotes to read.
In my library, I have three shelves of early cookery book, all reprints, of course; also, here are all my Past Masters News and articles written by every hearth cook I could get my hands on, in my file cabinet. It is nice to find one book that has many of these small publications, by present cooking historians in one place.
She has also compiled many receipts of all sorts, from early books, English and American both north and south. So many of which include cooking , lungs, brains, hearts and such, for her book she has chosen receipts that are, what I would call, more pleasing to our modern palate. I’m going to try Apoquinimic Cake, by Mary Randolph, “The Virginia Housewife” even though it is a southern receipt. With a bit of research I’m sure I can find a northern receipt very similar that I can use here in New England.
So if you have a limited cookery book collection ” A Book of Cookery” might do you well. It has over 168 pages of receipts nicely groups in a comprehensible way. And index it the front of the book.
Kimberly offered a valuable service by combining what is in season with definitions of food and equipment, and she has captures the grandeur of the sweet table for tea. She provides her web sources and the book is well footnoted. If you’re looking for a cookery book that has brought together information from many sources, “A Book of Cookery” by A Lady is a fine book for your shelf.