never had it so good: a wealth of new vegetable types, skilled and inventive
cooks delivering dishes from cuisines unknown to our parents’ generation, and
new kitchen technologies that deliver freshness and flavour inconceivable to
the age of cast-iron ranges and steaming boiling-pots.
So, while today a vegetarian can eat a
light, exciting, fully flavoured and satisfying meal which may be the envy of
many a carnivore, everyone will admit that the fate of a vegetarian or
food-reformer in the reign of Queen Victoria was possibly not so blessed. This
little book explores the recipes that were developed by, and available to, the
vegetarians of yesteryear. We will not pretend, nor does the author, that every
recipe is a culinary thrill but each does unlock a certain secret about early
vegetarianism, a movement that was of much greater significance in the years
before the First World War than we sometimes acknowledge.
literature of vegetarian cookery starts with Thomas Tryon’s 1690 Wisdoms
Dictates but then is
virtual blank until the second half of the nineteenth century when
vegetarianism became more widespread. This book offers a selection of recipes
culled from manuals dating broadly from 1856 to 1908. The author does not
explore the non-meat based recipes of some 18th-century books, nor the dietary
suggestions of 18th-century physicians who were sometimes in favour of a less
meat-based cuisine. Rather, she concentrates on the food-reformers of the late
19th century and the early 20th.
It is arranged in logical chapters covering
Soups; Salads; Beans, Lentils and Rice; Cheese and Egg Dishes; Cutlets,
Croquettes and Sausages; Moulds and Galantines; Pies and Pastries; Vegetable
Dishes; Sauces; Bread; Sweets; Porridge, Gruel, etc.; and closing with menus
for banquets and celebrations including Christmas Dinner.
The recipes are offered in their original
form with a minimum of editorial suggestion as to how they may be achieved.
Clearly, the cooking was not very complicated.
This book will be of interest to those
curious about the history of vegetarianism. Those with longer memories will
recall that vegetarian cooking, for instance after the Second World War, was
surprisingly tasty and adventurous (they could work miracles with a nut
cutlet). This book will give some hint as to how they achieved their ends.
is a writer and film maker, who also trained in radio production with RTE in
Dublin. Currently she is directing and editing documentaries and producing
podcasts. She writes about food and
travel and this is her first book. She lives in London.