The fish must first be caught

Looking through some Australian newspapers from the 1840’s, it seems most of the recipes were for household use rather than culinary; how to make a labour-saving soap, a  ‘Recipe for the Prevention of Smut in Wheat” (take half a pound of vitriol…) a recipe to prevent any ill effects from the bite of any rabid animal, how to make eye water, how to treat diseases in sheep with disgusting sounding recipes, a recipe which is actually a method of killing cockroaches (drown them in good ale)  and a recipe for sea-sickness… most welcome I would guess even if it is only cold water and a little brandy!,

However, I was very interested in a comment made by the Attorney General – and remember this is in 1840, that he ‘begged to remind the honourable members of Mrs. Glass’s recipe for cooking salmon, which specified that the fish must first be caught before they could lie cooked; so it was necessary that a bush-ranger should be caught before he could be dealt with.’

The point was that there was a debate in 1840 about punishment and retribution, in this case of bush-rangers who were essentially thieves and highwaymen,’ and the illustration was from a recipe by Hannah Glass whose famous cookery book, ‘The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy’, was published in 1747.

Now what I am getting at is that the idea of first catching your salmon, i.e. firstly have your ingredients to hand, was apparently first promulgated 104 years before Mrs Beeton wrote about ‘first catch your rabbit.’ Mrs Beeton is held up as the first ‘proper’ published cookery writer which was accessible to ordinary housewives and cooks. Oh no she wasn’t!!

Isabella Beeton pinched not only recipes, but actual phrases from cooks who had gone before! Naughty Isabella! Hannah Glasse had had the idea of ‘first catch your whatever’ a long time before Mrs Beeton!

A cookery book writer I very much admire is Eliza Acton; she published her cookery book, ‘Modern Cookery’. not long before Mrs Beeton and in a subsequent edition she complains strongly about other people stealing her ideas and recipes. Mrs Beeton whose husband Samuel Orchart Beeton was in the publishing business had all the backing of a publicist and her book became the Bible for many ordinary housewives. My mum always used Mrs Beeton – and so did I, before I discovered Eliza Acton! – actually I also inherited my mum’s other mainstay, the Be-Ro book!

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