The First Edition of the Glasgow Cookery Book (1910)

The First Edition

The first edition of the Glasgow Cookery Book had a chapter of ‘Invalid Recipes’ which contained 23 recipes, some of which are similar to those found in the published cookbooks that were connected with the college and are explored here. It is useful to outline these first recipes to see how they change over time, so I have listed them here in the order they come in the cookbook: 

  1. Irish Moss Jelly
  2. Sago Cream
  3. Breadberry
  4. Meat Essence
  5. Invalid Mutton Broth
  6. Arrowroot Pudding
  7. Invalid Jelly 
  8. Grilled Chop
  9. Steamed Whiting
  10. Lemonade
  11. Apple Water
  12. Toast Water
  13. Barley Water
  14. Beef Tea (Slow Way) 
  15. Beef Tea (Quick Way)
  16. Raw Beef Tea
  17. Steamed Filleted Fish
  18. Baked Custard 
  19. Beef Tea Custard
  20. Custard (Steamed) 
  21. Gruel
  22. Linseed Tea
  23. Egg Flip 

These recipes were for both foods and beverages for the ill, and many of them are like recipes found earlier cookbooks like Margaret Black’s Household Cookery and Laundry Work and Superior Cookery (1882)As noted in the section on published cookery books, Black was the principal of the West End School of Cookery, having left the Glasgow School of Cookery to form her own establishment. She passed away in 1903, when her niece Mary MacKirdy took over, before the West End School became amalgamated with the Glasgow School of Cookery to form the GWSCDS in 1908. At this point, MacKirdy stayed on in the role of head of the cookery department. Given that Black was employed at the Glasgow School of Cookery (she was the first cookery teacher there having been sent to South Kensington Cookery School for training) her legacy as a culinary educator who published cookbooks from Glasgow means that her publications and teachings were very likely to have a large influence on the GCB. Her integral role in both the Glasgow Cookery School and the West End School of Cookery mean that her teachings were at the root of culinary education in Glasgow, and so connections between her earlier cookbooks and the GCB are unsurprising. 

Similarities can be traced between the invalid recipes in Black’s earlier cookbooks and the ones published in the first edition of the GCB. Black’s Household Cookery, for instance, also had recipes for ‘Raw Beef Tea’ and two different regular beef tea recipes: ‘Simple Way’ and ‘Best Way’. Despite the similar titles, however, the recipes in the GCB are different in terms of the methods they employ. In Black’s ‘Raw Beef Tea’, raw beef is mixed with water and salt and ‘left to stand for a quarter of an hour or longer’ (Black 1882: 109), whereas the same recipe in the GCB stipulates that the beef should stand for ‘1 hour’ (1910: 326). Similarly, the ‘Quick’ beef tea from the GCB consists of beef that is simmered in a pan of initially cold water for an hour and a half, while the ‘Simple’ beef tea from Black’s cookbook is steamed with a little water in a bain-marie for twenty to thirty minutes. The recipes in the GCB take longer to prepare, and would seemingly produce a richer beef tea than in Black’s earlier recipes when the beef didn’t have as long to impart its flavour. 

‘Lemonade’, ‘Apple Water’, ‘Toast Water’, ‘Barley Water’, ‘Gruel’, ‘Egg Flip’, ‘Mutton Broth’ and ‘Arrowroot [Pudding]’ are all recipes which appear in either Black’s Household Cookery or her Superior Cookery (1890). The recipes typically have the same or similar ingredients, but slightly different methods. It’s therefore clear that the people at the GWSCDS who put the GCB together did not simply lift recipes from earlier texts they had at their disposal: this was not a case of direct replication. But the repetition of these recipes between texts does clarify that there were certain dishes which formed a core invalid menu – common items that were generally believed to help the ill, and that invalids could expect to be prepared for them when they were feeling poorly. 

The section on published cookery books here gives an overview of the scientific thought behind the frequent inclusion of beef tea in invalid menus, and so it was not unusual to have multiple recipes for the fortifying beverage among invalid recipes. The other recipes in the first edition of the GCB were also for foods or beverages that would be easy to digest: jellies, creams, broths, puddings, waters, custards and gruels. These soft or liquid foods would have been easy on the stomach, and so hopefully those suffering from various illnesses would not have been plagued with further digestive issues. The recipes for ‘Grilled Chop’ or ‘Steamed Whiting’ would have provided invalids with a more hearty, substantial meal, but as you can see below there is a distinct lack of seasoning or strong flavours involved in any of the recipes. Given the repetition and adaptation of recipes from earlier Glaswegian cookbooks, and the similar focus on plain foods that were easy to digest, it is interesting to consider how these core recipes either change or are added to in later editions of the GCB.  

Personal Touches

Even within the two copies of the first edition of the GCB held in the Queen’s College records, there are interesting differences because of the handwritten notes that students of the College recorded within them. These were typically recipes.

The video below, taken with a visualiser in the GCU archive centre, gives a sense of the cookbook as a material object that was full of timely advertisements. In this first edition the food products advertised at the front of the cookbook were sold by merchants in Glasgow, which reflects how closely tied the GCB was to Glasgow’s food industry.

The beautiful handwriting in these notes pages shows how much care students took to record their own recipes, recipes they learned in classes that weren’t included in books, or their recipe adaptations. The contents page of this edition has a quickly-scribbled note about the amount of isinglass required to preserve eggs, which shows how the book was used as a notebook as much as a cookery resource. The recipes range from jams, jellies and marmalades to gingerbread (there are several gingerbread recipes) and walnut loaf. Because these recipes were handwritten by the woman who owned this edition, and perhaps subsequent generations after her, we can see personal touches throughout. There is a note beside the recipe for oatcakes, for example, which reads ‘Mrs Alison’, showing that the cookbook’s owner got this recipe from an acquaintance. Consider cookbooks in this manner shows how aside from the printed recipes they include, they are inherently personal objects that are approached differently by everybody who comes to use them.

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