Thomas Dawson wrote a number of popular and influential recipe books including The Good Huswifes Jewell (1585), The good Hus-wifes handmaid for the kitchen (1594), and The Booke of Carving and Sewing (1597). The books covered a broad range of subjects, such as general cookery, sweet waters, preserves, animal husbandry, carving, sewing and the duties of servants.
The late sixteenth century was the first time that cookery books began to be published and acquired with any sort of regularity. It is also the first time that cookery books were directed at a female audience. However, literacy rates among women were very low, so it is likely that these books would only have been purchased by the priveledged few. In addition, only the higher echelons of society would have had regular access to valuable key ingredients such as sugar, spices, hothouse-grown fruits or plentiful livestock.
Dawson took many of his recipes from the long-established practices of courtly kitchens. A number of the recipes are directly attributed to noblemen and women. For example, page 12 of The good Hus-wifes handmaid for the kitchen tells of 'How to keep Lard after my Lord Ferries way'.
It is in this period that cookery book writers begin to provide practical instructions of the kind we would recognise in recipe books of today. In The good Hus-wifes handmaid, for example, quantities are given in quarts, spoonfuls, handfuls, pints, gallons, pounds and ounces. And directions are given in great detail. The reader is instructed to strain, beat in a mortar, heat until 'luke warm' or 'boyling hot', soak, season, spread with a feather, chop very small or 'perboile'. An oyster pie must stand for half an hour before the gravy is added. The hardest apples are said to be better for baking. And in a recipe for 'a pie to keep long,' the reader is told, 'the longer you keep them, the better wil they be'.
- Full title:
- The good huswifes Iewell. Wherein is to be found most excellend and rare Deuises for conceites in Cookery, found out by the practise of Thomas Dawson. Wherevnto is adioyned sundry approved receits for many soueraine oyles, and the way to distill many precious waters, with diuers approued medicines for many diseases. Also certain approued points of husbandry ... Newly set foorth with additions.
- 1585, London
- Thomas Dawson
- Usage terms
- Public Domain
- Held by
- British Library
- Article by:
- Liza Picard
- Shakespeare’s life and world, Elizabethan England
The wealthiest Elizabethans ate lavish meals of many courses, while many poorer people didn’t even have their own ovens, and some of the poorest survived on leftover scraps from the rich. Liza Picard describes how class, religion and politics all influenced how Elizabethans shopped for food, cooked and ate.