Although it’s been a little while since I’ve posted (finishing up a job in Germany, moving to Canada, setting up a new business, etc. have kept me rather busy), Mrs Beeton and Household Management are very often in my mind.
Over the last year, as I’ve tried a multitude of her wonderful (and not so wonderful) recipes and tips, I’ve drawn quite a few conclusions about Victorian England and the art of running a household in general. Here are a just a few of them:
1. That English food is ‘rubbish’ or ‘sub-standard’ (as many people I’ve spoken to seem to unhesitatingly think, even if they’ve never tried it) is a fallacy. English cooking often gets bad press, as far as its image goes. But reputation in this case has very little to do with reality. Perhaps there was a time when it wasn’t as inspirational or interesting as it could have been (I suspect the 1970s, but I could be wrong), but the lingering perception amongst the general public is really quite unfair when compared to reality.
2. That England has lousy cooks. Again, I don’t know where this general idea comes from, and nor do people I’ve spoken to when pressed to back up their claim with an example. If television is anything to go by (in the 21st century alone, think Rick Stein, Keith Floyd, Nigella Lawson, Anthony Worral-Thompson, Delia Smith, Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre-White, Jamie Oliver, Heston Blumenthal, Gary Rhodes, etc. etc. etc.), then the great English cook is alive and lustily kicking.
3. That running a household is something easy and effortless – ‘just a woman’s job’. If my other half was fond of joking about this a year ago, he certainly isn’t now. What’s more, for those women and men who choose to make housekeeping / home-making a full-time job (and even for those who do it in addition to raising kids and working outside the home), I say ‘bravo’.
As I finish my year of running my household with the reassuring guidance of Mrs Beeton, I feel I’ve come away from this adventure with a richer kitchen repertoire, a broader range of household tactics, and a whole lot more self-respect for my roles as Head of Finance, Head of Cooking, Head of Cleaning and Head of Procurement.
Thank you, Isabella Beeton. It’s been an absolute pleasure.