Book Review – The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy: The Revolutionary 1805 Classic by Hannah Glasse.

The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy

4 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Dover Publications for a free ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an open and honest review.

Why aren’t cookery books written like this anymore? I LOVED this book! I OWN books published up to one hundred and ten years ago as the old cook books have some of the best tips and tricks that will be forgotten if we don’t keep reading them. I will admit to being mean by not giving the full 5 stars, but I couldn’t bring myself to do so for a reprint. And I should, I really should. Because reprints like this are far more economical for the majority of us to buy, they also allow these old world tips and tricks to survive and be passed on in a book that can be used daily, rather than one looked after and only read when wearing white cotton gloves.

So I do apologise for not giving ‘The Art of Cookery Made Plan and Easy’ the full 5 stars. It deserves it, it really does… but I’d still want a first edition. 😉

For those who aren’t used to this older style of cookery book they might not be that impressed with it. Nor find it that easy to read or use. Why? There are no big glossy pictures showing you step by step ‘how to do’, there are next to no actual measured ingredients and the recipes are more notes to remind one how to cook than teach one how to cook. But that is because of when it was originally written. And that anyone able to read this book would have already been watching Cook at work and learnt all the tips and tricks from her (sometimes him mind you). And so cookery books from this era are more reminders of how to do something you should have already been taught. Or, if not taught, you’d at least know the basics and could read it at a glance and go ‘Ah, of course’ and go off and do it. It is why I love cookery books of this era. No idiot proofing. I’ve been cooking for thirty odd years now (if you count frying my own eggs aged nine) and was cooking proper ‘made meals’ for a family of six from the age of twelve. So I know my way around a kitchen and I know how to ‘improv’ (improvise) a meal. This is possibly why I love these older cook books, as they suit my cooking experience and mindsets so well.

And I have to say, being mostly self-taught in the cooking field, I’ve read (and own) quite a lot of cook books. They are my Achilles heel I think. And to slow my ever increasing collection, I now prefer my cookery books to be at least sixty to eighty years old before I will buy them… another reason this book appeals to me. As the contents are much older… but it’s a modern print and so (hopefully) a cheaper purchase.

Oh, and thank you! Roll the butter in flour before adding to a pan to make a sauce or gravy. Yes! Why had I never thought of this before? It is so obviously such a fool proof way to make a thick, glossy sauce with no lumps. Duh!

Would I recommend this book to others? Yes I would. It’s not a book for beginners or those not that confident to do ‘improv’. Those who need a step by step guide, accurately measured ingredients and big glossy pictures showing them how to do it – I wouldn’t recommend this book to them. But those who love to cook, have the experience and skills to ‘go off script’ and have a go… yes, they’d love this book and should check it out.

Would I buy this book for myself? Yes and no. Well, duh, yes actually. But I’d be lamenting it’s not a first edition the whole time. Call me a cookery book snob, I know I am being illogical and mean – but I do LOVE the original old cookery tomes. But I can see myself buying this modern reprint for the reasons given above: it should be cheaper, and I feel safer using it in the kitchen with my kids than I would a first edition. Usually I write out recipes I want to try from my older cookery books and work off the handwritten recipe (I write all over recipes with my own notes you see) and so a modern print would suit this terrible habit of mine too. So, yes, buy me the reprint! 🙂

In summary: Lovers of the old style cookery books, back in the days of open fire ranges, no electricity and not a fridge in sight – you will love this book. Yes it’s a reprint and not a first edition…. But you are still gaining the knowledge of those centuries of skills now gone. It is a great cook book and one I would happily own.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO


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