Academic journal article New Formations

Migration, Cuisine and Integration: The Anglo-Jewish Cookbook from the Lady to the Princess

Academic journal article New Formations

Migration, Cuisine and Integration: The Anglo-Jewish Cookbook from the Lady to the Princess

Article excerpt

Although cookbooks along ethnic lines have become a major part of the landscape of contemporary British cookbook publishing, the only longstanding sub-genres preceding this phenomenon consist of those which have focused upon curry and those which have served as manuals for the Jewish housewife. While the former evolved in the culinary exchange and transfer which took place between Britons and Indians from the eighteenth century, (1) the latter reflects the patterns of migration and integration amongst the Jewish community in Britain since the mid-Victorian period. As different waves and generations of Jewish migrants entered the British mainstream, their food changed in a similar way to their language and appearance. Food represented a marker of identity and integration. One of the methods of exploring culinary change and more general integration involves an examination of the AngloJewish cookbook, the main focus of this essay.

But this sub-genre needs contextualisation within the history of cookbooks in Britain. Nicola Humble's recent volume examined the relationship between cookbooks and the changes in British food since the middle of the nineteenth century. (2) Cookbooks do not tell us exactly what any group of society eats at any particular moment. Yet, in the absence of surveys about consumption until the evolution of market research organisations at the end of the twentieth century, (3) they prove useful for registering aspects of change in eating habits. Government sources have tended to focus upon the consumption of mass uncooked products such as sugar, cereals, eggs or bacon. (4) Other sources which can help us to build up a picture of food consumption would include occasional surveys which asked people exactly what they ate. (5)

A summary of the cookbook in Britain over the past 150 years would point to the following key developments. Before the First World War it had two key functions. It first of all aimed primarily at chefs and cooks. However, numerous volumes also appeared aimed at instructing the working classes. Good examples of the first of these genres aimed primarily at the restaurant trade would include Charles Elme Francatelli, The Modern Cook. Francatelli aimed his volume and the 1,462 recipes contained within it, at 'the largest establishments' as well as for 'the use of private families'. (6) In a similar vein, but aimed more especially at the restaurant trade, August Escoffier published his Guide to Modern Cookery while working in London at the start of the twentieth century. (7)

The starting point for those cookbooks aimed primarily at the domestic cook has to consist of the seminal British cookbook of the middle of the nineteenth century in the form of Mrs Beetons Book of Household Management (originally 1861). The title needs to be read carefully because the book aimed at instructing heads of homes in how to run them, rather than teaching middle class women how to cook, as would happen in the interwar years. (8) Consequently, the opening two chapters carry the titles of 'The Mistress', compared with 'the commander of any army', and 'The Housekeeper', 'second in command in the house'. The middle chapters (representing the bulk of the book) focus upon cooking, while those towards the end of the volume deal with themes such as domestic servants and looking after sick children. (9) While it has not retained quite the same reputation as Beeton's volume, an equally important and almost contemporaneous book consisted of Eliza Acton's, Modern Cookery for Private Families, published in 1865 with 622 recipes. Like Beeton's volume, and in contrast to Francatelli or Escoffier, it tries to teach its reader how to cook. (10)

Similarly, the second half of the nineteenth century witnessed the publication of an important stream of books aimed at teaching the working classes how to cook because of a concern with their nutrition and diets. (11) The most famous examples include Alexis Soyer's A Shilling Cookery Book for the People originally published in 1855 and containing nearly five hundred dishes. …

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