Monday, March 14, 2005

Food for thought

So maybe The Times is a bit short of news today, but I'm delighted to see that the bastion of the social announcement is keeping up with important people's birthdays. Well, okay, they never remember mine, but today, they report, is Mrs Beeton's birthday.

Who is Mrs Beeton? Well, in 1836, a mere slip of a lass at 25 years old, she had just published a weighty tome on the proper subject for women, household management. It included all kinds of advice for dealing with chilblains and servants, as well as hundreds of recipes. You might not believe me, but she was knocking out chicken curry 169 years ago.

Why is this relevant to the study of English Language? Well, first up, Mrs Beeton's book is available online and makes for a fascinating exploration of how language, in a general sense, has changed over time. You could look, specifically, at how gendered issues and ideas, attitudes and values, are encoded in the way Mrs Beeton dishes out the advice. What's also interesting is how the language of cookery has changed over time.

Want to see this in action? The first link below will take you to today's article in The Times. Well sort of - you'll have to type Mrs Beeton into search box and follow the links cos The Times are being stingy with their linkylove this week. 'Fraid I can't give you the devilled chicken liver recipe from Mrs Beeton because that's in the later-updated 1900 edition and the only online one is the original from 1836. But the second link will take you to a section of that dealing with duck, and the third link will take you to the BBC's duck recipes page for some modern recipes for comparison.

Happy Birthday Mrs Beeton

Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management

BBC - modern recipes


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