Mrs Beeton’s kitchen rules

The eldest of 21 (yes, 21) siblings, Isabella Mary Mayson was born in London in 1836. She married to Samuel Beeton, an ambitious young publisher, when she was hardly 20 years old. Soon after marriage she started writing articles and books on cookery and household management. She died young at the age of 28 in 1865. She is remembered now for classics such as Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (published in 1861, it’s one of the great publishing successes of all times, nearly 2 million copies were sold by 1868) and Mrs Beeton’s Every Day Cookery and Household Book (1862).

Mrs Beeton believed that if novices committed her culinary maxims to memory, they would have before them the fundamental truths of the art of cookery. A selection:

  • A good cook looks ahead … there is no work like early work.
  • Muddle makes more muddle.
  • Dirty saucepans filled with hot water begin to clean themselves.
  • Wash well a saucepan, but clean a frying-pan with a piece of bread.
  • Thrust an oniony knife into the earth to take away the smell.
  • Pour nothing but water down the sink
  • Green vegetables should be boiled fast with the lid off.
  • Fish boiled should be done slowly, with a little vinegar.
  • Water boils when it gallops, oil when it is still.
  • A stew boiled is a stew spoiled.
  • One egg, beaten well, is worth two not beaten.
  • Draw fresh water for the kettle to boil for tea, cocoa, or coffee.
  • Make the tea directly the water boils.

The first ‘domestic goddess’ (a moniker made famous by Nigella Lawson) was also the first to support worry-free, free-range chickens when she warned: Never eat a depressed chicken.

© Surendra Verma 2019

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