Yesterday after lunch (why is it that when they’re offering something really YUMMY at our university cafeteria, the queue is so long that you’re forced to go and have the not-so yummy stuff after all? Duh.) and after our weekly team meeting, I went and bought that book I was talking about on Monday. And I bought the original, just as Carolyn advised. 🙂
So, what’s the title of this mysterious book? It’s THE BEETON BOOK OF GARDEN MANAGEMENT. You might have heard of MRS. BEETON’S BOOK OF HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT, one of the first cookbooks in Britain and a guide to running a large household in Victorian times. Apparently, Mrs. Beeton was married to a Mr. Beeton (hehe, took a genius to figure that one out, eh?), who was a publisher of books and popular magazines. She started to write articles for her hubby’s publications, and in 1861 those articles were compiled and published as a book, said MRS. BEETON’S BOOK OF HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT. Apart from umpteen pages of recipes, it also contains instructions for the mistress and the various servants, outlining their duties – thus making it a wonderful resource for writers! I for one, have never quite grasped in how far the duties of the butler differed from those of a footman; what kind of things the valet had to do in addition to helping his master dress; or what the difference was between a coachman and a groom. Mrs. Beeton, however, has enlightened me! 🙂 (If you want to be enlightened, too, you can check out the online text at www.mrsbeeton.com )
The other wonderful thing about HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT are the recipes and the numerous colour plates, which show how the food was served, what it looked like, how it was decorated, etc. So I definitely want to get my hands on a copy of that book, too.
But what’s so interesting about THE BEETON BOOK OF GARDEN MANAGEMENT? Again, the colour plates: they show all the different kinds of fruits and veggies the Victorians cultivated in their gardens. They had a much greater variety of vegetables & fruits than we have today, and many of the old varieties of, say, beans or peas are no longer grown on a large scale or even no longer available today. Did you, for example, know that there are yellow raspberries? I didn’t! And I love raspberries! 🙂
In addition, it will be interesting to see what the 19th-century kitchen gardens could produce throughout the four seasons. And those big estates produced all their fruit and veggies themselves, which meant they had to come up with some clever ideas how to grow things during the autumn and winter months. Melons, for example, were all the rage during the 19th century, and the headgardeners of the different estates throughout Britain normally would grow their own varieties!