Drawing on the experience she gained while 'constantly employed by fashionable and noble families', Eliza Smith, writing a hundred years before Mrs Beeton, compiled a collection of more than 600 recipes which had met with 'the general approbation'. She was also at pains to pass on, for the benefit of every 'accomplished gentlewoman', a multitude of cures and remedies 'never before made publick' for every ailment from a pimpled face to the bite of a mad dog, together with a number of useful DIY tips.
Published originally as The Compleat Housewife, Eliza's compendium proved so popular that by 1758, thirty years after her death, it was in its seventeenth edition and famous not only in Britain but in America, where it was the first cookery book ever published. Today, in an age of convenience foods, labour-saving technology, fashionable fads and sophisticated cuisine, this once indispensable handbook provides a fascinating glimpse of domestic economy in the eighteenth century, when a housewife's duties ranged from marketing, cooking, brewing and preserving to applying medieval cures which sound to the modern ear more likely to kill than cure.
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