I love old cookery books… not necessarily antique or really old, but the sort of books which ordinary families might have to hand in their kitchens. Second-hand bookshops, charity shops, jumble sales, these are the places where all sorts of treasures can be found. They are usually not worth much, usually well-thumbed and maybe spotted and stained from use in the kitchen, sometimes the pages are loose, and sometimes there are jottings in the margins and beside recipes from previous owners… I get so excited when I find these!
Recently we were in Arundel and in a wonderful bookshop there (several floors of an ancient building, crammed with books on every subject – and beautifully arranged so it was easy to see what was there!) and I found ‘Mrs A. B. Marshall’s Cookery Book’. What a treasure! I had never heard of Mrs A. B. – Agnes Bertha as I have since discovered, but here was her book, full of wonderful engraved illustrations by an anonymous artist.
I haven’t properly looked through it, but I did just look up Mrs Marshall, and it seems as if she was a celebrity in her day. She was born in 1855 and her particular forte was ice-cream! I have found recipes for ice-cream in other nineteenth century books, but she has a whole section in this book I have. She wrote four books altogether,
- Ices Plain and Fancy: The Book of Ices (1885)
- Mrs. A.B. Marshall’s Book of Cookery (1888)
- Mrs. A.B. Marshall’s Larger Cookery Book of Extra Recipes (1891)
- Fancy Ices (1894)
… and she also opened a cookery school, Marshall School of Cookery in Mortimer Street in 1883, published a weekly magazine, The Table, from 1886 and sold cooking supplies and equipment. She was a real fore-runner of the celebrity cooks and chefs we have these days!
Tragically she died at the age of forty-nine; after falling from a horse in 1904, she died the following year, never having recovered from her injuries. Mr Marshall, her husband took over the business, but it seems that without Agnes, the enterprise could no longer succeed. sadly, unlike Eliza Acton or Mrs Beeton, no-one remembers Agnes Bertha Marshall.