Here Soyer provides some notes for the reader on the length and complexity of his recipes. Then, in an introduction in the form of a letter, he outlines his intention to provide recipes for the 'artisan, mechanic and cottager.' He talks about his extensive research on the subject of the 'cottages and abodes of the industrious classes,' and writes that he aims to improve the knowledge of cookery within this community.
About Soyer's Shilling Cookery
Alexis Soyer (1809-58) made his reputation as chef at London's prestigious Reform Club. Soyer loved to perform, and many regard him as Britain's first celebrity chef. He was a brilliant self-promoter. He marketed a range of his own products: kitchen equipment, recipe books, sauces and relishes. He opened his own art gallery. And he even conducted tours of the Reform Club's state-of-the-art industrial kitchens. On the day of Queen Victoria's coronation he prepared a breakfast at the Reform Club for over 2000 people.
But Soyer was equally concerned to improve the standard of cookery amongst the poor. A Shilling Cookery for the People is full of practical advice, based on the assumption that many readers could not afford the ingredients for complicated recipes.
The book is typical of Soyer's desire to democratise the rules of cookery - bringing to the masses techniques that in France were part of an everyday culinary vocabulary. For example, in one chapter Soyer describes a visit to a house in St Giles (one of London's poorest parishes), where he performs a lesson in coffee making.Much of the book is in the form of personal letters written to friends, creating a cosy and somewhat romantic authorial voice - a stark contrast to Mrs Beeton's militaristic tone.
Soyer devoted much of his life to a number of philanthropic projects. He worked on Irish famine relief, creating the first properly designed soup kitchen. And he worked with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, improving the diet of wounded soldiers. The Morning Chronicle said of Soyer, 'he saved as many lives through his kitchens as Florence Nightingale did through her wards.'