England, circa 1860s CE
- 3 slices of bread
- Suggested Garnishment: butter, salt and pepper, meat shreds
- Butter two slices of bread and set aside.
- Toast a third slice of bread. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
- Place cool toast between slices of buttered bread.
- Salt and pepper to taste. Thin shreds of meat can also be added.
The History Shapes Cookbook
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From the History Shapes Cookbook, available now:
In 1861, a 25-year-old Isabella Beeton published Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management.
The book started as a series of recipes in The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine and saw multiple editions published in her lifetime and dozens afterward – even as late as 2010.
Mrs. Beeton's sold like gangbusters because of its revolutionary focus: the book's entire goal was to help women of any skill level manage their homes properly.
A version of this recipe for a Toast Sandwich appeared in the “Invalid Cookery” part of the book. This section dealt with preparing meals for the sick without upsetting their condition.
The influence of Mrs. Beeton's on modern cookbooks and food culture itself is absolutely bananas. Recipes of the time were commonly called receipts. Receipts were basically just paragraphs of text with vague information about measurements and preparation. They were sloppily written down to convey a rough idea of what should happen in the kitchen.
Isabella was one of the first authors to list out the ingredients and measurements of a recipe separately from the preparation instructions. Her book also featured large, full-color illustrations of ingredients, their rough costs, and recommended times of the year for getting your hands on them. For the first time you could plan meals based on budget. No one had ever seen anything like it.
Even from its initial publication, Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management was set to go down as the be-all, end-all of cookbooks. There was just one tiny issue: Isabella Beeton wasn’t so hot in the kitchen.
Some of her fundamentals were a bit off. She suggested that you cook pasta for an hour and forty-five minutes. She thought garlic was nasty, and mangoes tasted like turpentine. Lobster was inedible garbage. Cheese was only for sedentary people. Potatoes? Toxic.
Some of these oddities line up with other culinary tastes of the era, but most exist because Isabella largely plagiarized popular recipes of the day. She also had no firsthand knowledge of the recipe’s components or preparation. Rather than her amazing culinary skills, the packaging of easy-to-read recipes in a graphic format was the actual the secret sauce of Mrs. Beeton's.
It wasn't a perfect book, but Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management was a huge help to the average, newly-married woman in Victorian times. It fostered closeness of the family and put an emphasis on thrifty meal preparation in a way we take for granted in the food-influencer, meal prep social media landscape we see today.
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