Mary Williamson talks about the extraordinary mix of cuisine and culture in an 1830 cookbook, with updated recipes demo’d by Elizabeth Baird
In her new book, Mrs. Dalgairns’s Kitchen, Mary Williamson examines an unusual 19th century cookbook, The Practice of Cookery. The book was unique not only in being wholly original, but for its broad culinary influences, incorporating recipes from British North America, the United States, England, Scotland, France and India.
Mrs. Dalgairn was thought by her contemporaries to be Scottish, but she had lived for over 20 years on Prince Edward Island in Canada. In Mrs Dalgairns’s Kitchen, Mary Williamson reclaims Dalgairns and her book’s Canadian roots. In addition to the author’s experience of Acadian and Mi’kmaq foodways, Mrs. Dalgairns lived in Scotland for a number of years and added recipes there to her repertoire. Her mother had come from Boston, inspiring the cookbook’s several American recipes; Dalgairns’s brothers-in-law lived in India, reflected in the chapter devoted to curry recipes.
When The Practice of Cookery first appeared in 1829, reviewers went into ecstasies and it was a top seller for nearly 30 years, until it was finally eclipsed by Mrs. Beeton’s famous cookbook.
Mary Williamson will be joined by Elizabeth Baird, who adapted some of the recipes in the book for modern kitchens. Baird—who found Dalgairns’s recipes extremely practical—will demonstrate two of the updated recipes from the book. A Question & Answer with both women will follow.