Hannah Glasse & The Art Of Cookery Made Plain And Easy
This International Women’s Day, we celebrate Hannah Glasse, a groundbreaking 18th century author who democratized the business of cookery and paved the way for future budding female cooks and cookbook authors.
During her lifetime, cookbooks were written by men and mostly for fancy professional chefs. Glasse pioneered the concept of simple and accessible recipes for all—stubbornly insisting that even the “lower sort”, like herself, deserved to eat well. Glasse showed them how.
Published in 1747, Hannah Glasse’s cookbook The Art Of Cookery Made Plain And Easy, is regarded as the first modern English language cookbook. Unlike elaborate cookbooks at the time, it was written in a plain and direct style, to appeal to the servant and middle class.
Though Glasse was born into a wealthy family and became accustom to delicious, expensive and well-made food, she lived the rest of her life in poverty. Glasse was the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy English landowner and in England at the time, illegitimate daughters weren’t given the best marriages. She was married off to an Irish soldier and by the time she was 20, Glasse and her husband were working as servants in an earl's household.
While working in the household, Glasse noticed that the cookbooks were incredibly hard to comprehend, even for servants who were literate, and the recipes called for too many ingredients that would be too expensive for an average English cook.
"The great cooks have such a high way of expressing themselves that the poor girls are at a loss to know what they mean," Glasse wrote in the introduction to her cookbook.
The book indexes 972 recipes ranging from cheesecake to roasted hare, as well as recipes for medicines and housekeeping tips.
On its initial release, the book became a smash hit among the servant class and the growing middle class. For a brief period of time, Glasse had money again. Unfortunately, after she fell into severe financial difficulties, she went bankrupt. Glasse was reportedly forced to auction off the copyright to her cookbook.
Unfortunately, during her lifetime, Glasse didn't receive much praise for her work, as she had not attached her name to the book, instead simply saying on its cover that it was "By a LADY." It was only in the fourth edition of the cookbook, that Glasse's name appeared on the title page. Sadly, Glasse never truly experienced her own success or understood how influential her work would become.
After Glasse’s death, there have been at least 40 editions of The Art Of Cookery Made Plain And Easy, with reprints still available today. It’s remained a best-seller for a century and today, Glasse is commonly regarded as the “mother of the modern dinner party.”
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