The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy is a cookbook by Hannah Glasse (1708–1770) first published in 1747. It was a bestseller for a century after its first publication, dominating the English-speaking market and making Glasse one of the most famous cookbook authors of her time. The book ran through at least 40 editions, many of them were copied without explicit author consent. It was published in Dublin from 1748, and in America from 1805.
Glasse said in her note "To the Reader" that she used plain language so that servants would be able to understand it.
The 1751 edition was the first book to mention trifle with jelly as an ingredient; the 1758 edition gave the first mention of "Hamburgh sausages" and piccalilli, while the 1774 edition of the book included one of the first recipes in English for an Indian-style curry. Glasse criticised French influence of British cuisine, but included dishes with French names and French influence in the book. Other recipes use imported ingredients including cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, pistachios and musk.
The book was popular in the Thirteen Colonies of America, and its appeal survived the American War of Independence, with copies being owned by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
The Art of Cookery was the dominant reference for home cooks in much of the English-speaking world in the second half of the 18th century and the early 19th century, and it is still used as a reference for food research and historical reconstruction. The book was updated significantly both during her life and after her death.
Early editions were not illustrated. Some posthumous editions include a decorative frontispiece, with the caption
The FAIR, who's Wise and oft consults our BOOK,
And thence directions gives her Prudent Cook,
With CHOICEST VIANDS, has her Table Crown'd,
And Health, with Frugal Ellegance is found.
Some of the recipes were plagiarised, to the extent of being reproduced verbatim from earlier books by other writers. To guard against plagiarism, the title page of, for example, the sixth edition (1758) carries at its foot the warning "This BOOK is published with his MAJESTY's Royal Licence; and whoever prints it, or any Part of it, will be prosecuted". In addition, the first page of the main text is signed in ink by the author.
The first edition of the book was published by Glasse herself, funded by subscription, and sold (to non-subscribers) at Mrs. Ashburn's China Shop.
To make a trifle.[a]
COVER the bottom of your dish or bowl with Naples biscuits broke in pieces, mackeroons broke in halves, and ratafia cakes. Just wet them all through with sack, then make a good boiled custard not too thick, and when cold pour it over it, then put a syllabub over that. You may garnish it with ratafia cakes, currant jelly, and flowers.
The book has a brief table of contents on the title page, followed by a note "To the Reader", and then a full list of contents, by chapter, naming every recipe. There is a full alphabetical index at the back.
Glasse explains in her note "To the Reader" that she has written simply, "for my Intention is to instruct the lower Sort", giving the example of larding a chicken: she does not call for "large Lardoons, they would not know what I meant: But when I say they must lard with little Pieces of Bacon, they know what I mean." And she comments that "the great Cooks have such a high way of expressing themselves, that the poor Girls are at a Loss to know what they mean."
As well as simplicity, to suit her readers in the kitchen, Glasse stresses her aim of economy: "some Things [are] so extravagant, that it would be almost a Shame to make Use of them, when a Dish can be made full as good, or better, without them."
Chapters sometimes begin with a short introduction giving general advice on the topic at hand, such as cooking meat; the recipes occupy the rest of the text. The recipes give no indication of cooking time or oven temperature. There are no separate lists of ingredients: where necessary, the recipes specify quantities directly in the instructions. Many recipes do not mention quantities at all, simply instructing the cook what to do, thus:
Sauce for Larks.
LARKS, roast them, and for Sauce have Crumbs of Bread; done thus: Take a Sauce-pan or Stew-pan and some Butter; when melted, have a good Piece of Crumb of Bread, and rub it in a clean Cloth to Crumbs, then throw it into your Pan; keep stirring them about till they are Brown, then throw them into a Sieve to drain, and lay them round your Larks.
Glasse set out her views of French cuisine in the book's introduction: "I have indeed given some of my Dishes French Names to distinguish them, because they are known by those names; And where there is great Variety of Dishes, and a large Table to cover, so there must be Variety of Names for them; and it matters not whether they be called by a French, Dutch, or English Name, so they are good, and done with as little Expence as the Dish will allow of." An example of such a recipe is "To à la Daube Pigeons"; a daube is a rich French meat stew from Provence, traditionally made with beef. Her "A Goose à la Mode" is served in a sauce flavoured with red wine, home-made "Catchup", veal sweetbread, truffles, morels, and (more ordinary) mushrooms. She occasionally uses French ingredients; "To make a rich Cake" includes "half a Pint of right French[b] Brandy", as well as the same amount of "Sack" (Spanish sherry).
Ingredients from faraway countries were becoming available. The recipe for "Elder-Shoots, in Imitation of Bamboo" makes use of a homely ingredient to substitute for a foreign one that English travellers had encountered in the Far East. The same recipe also calls for a variety of imported spices to flavour the pickle: "an Ounce of white or red Pepper, an Ounce of Ginger sliced, a little Mace, and a few Corns of Jamaica Pepper."
There are two recipes for making chocolate, calling for costly imported ingredients like musk (an aromatic obtained from musk deer) and ambergris (a waxy substance from sperm whales), vanilla and cardamon:
Take six pounds of Cocoa-nuts, One Pound of Anniseeds, four Ounces of long Pepper, one of Cinnamon, a Quarter of a Pound of Almonds, one Pound of Pistachios, as much Achiote[c] as will make it the colour of Brick; three grains of Musk, and as much Ambergrease, six Pounds of Loaf-sugar, one Ounce of Nutmegs, dry and beat them, and fearce them through a fine Sieve...
The Art of Cookery was a bestseller for a century after its first publication, making Glasse one of the most famous cookbook authors of her time. The book was "by far the most popular cookbook in eighteenth-century Britain".
It was rumoured for decades that despite the byline it was the work of a man, Samuel Johnson being quoted by James Boswell as observing at the publisher Charles Dilly's house that "Women can spin very well; but they cannot make a good book of cookery."
The Foreign Quarterly Review of 1844 commented that "there are many good receipts in the work, and it is written in a plain style." The review applauds Glasse's goal of plain language, but observes "This book has one great fault; it is disfigured by a strong anti-Galican [anti-French] prejudice."
The book sold extremely well in the Colonies of North America. This popularity survived the American War of Independence. A New York memoir of the 1840s declared that "We had emancipated ourselves from the sceptre of King George, but that of Hannah Glasse was extended without challenge over our fire-sides and dinner-tables, with a sway far more imperative and absolute". The first American edition of The Art of Cookery (1805) included two recipes for "Indian pudding" as well as "Several New Receipts adapted to the American Mode of Cooking", such as "Pumpkin Pie", "Cranberry Tarts" and "Maple Sugar". Benjamin Franklin is said to have had some of the recipes translated into French for his cook while he was the American ambassador in Paris. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned copies of the book.
Food critic John Hess and food historian Karen Hess have commented that the "quality and richness" of the dishes "should surprise those who believe that Americans of those days ate only Spartan frontier food", giving as examples the glass of Malaga wine, seven eggs and half a pound of butter in the pumpkin pie. They argue that while the elaborate bills of fare given for each month of the year in American editions were conspicuously wasteful, they were less so than the "interminable" menus "stuffed down" in the Victorian era, as guests were not expected to eat everything, but to choose which dishes they wanted, and "the cooking was demonstrably better in the eighteenth century."
The book contains a recipe "To make Hamburgh Sausages"; it calls for beef, suet, pepper, cloves, nutmeg, "a great Quantity of Garlick cut small", white wine vinegar, salt, a glass of red wine and a glass of rum; once mixed, this is to be stuffed "very tight" into "the largest Gut you can find", smoked for up to ten days, and then air-dried; it would keep for a year, and was "very good boiled in Peas Porridge, and roasted with toasted bread under it, or in an Amlet". The cookery writer Linda Stradley in an article on hamburgers suggests that the recipe was brought to England by German immigrants; its appearance in the first American edition may be the first time "Hamburgh" is associated with chopped meat in America.
Rose Prince, writing in The Independent, describes Glasse as "the first domestic goddess, the queen of the dinner party and the most important cookery writer to know about." She notes that Clarissa Dickson-Wright "makes a good case" for giving Glasse this much credit, that Glasse had found a gap in the market, and had the distinctions of simplicity, an "appetising repertoire", and a lightness of touch. Prince quotes the food writer Bee Wilson: "She's authoritative but she is also intimate, treating you as an equal", and concludes "A perfect book, then; one that deserved the acclaim it received." Jane Shilling, writing in Mail Online, agrees, noting that "Glasse writes in the same sort of chatty, intimate style that makes Delia and Nigella's [ referring to Nigella Lawson ] books so comforting for the nervous cook: Glasse concludes one chapter 'You must do just as you like it'."
The cookery writer Laura Kelley notes that the 1774 edition was one of the first books in English to include a recipe for curry: "To make a currey the Indian way." The recipe calls for two small chickens to be fried in butter; for ground turmeric, ginger and pepper to be added and the dish to be stewed; and for cream and lemon juice to be added just before serving. Kelley comments that "The dish is very good, but not quite a modern curry. As you can see from the title of my interpreted recipe, the modern dish most like it is an eastern (Kolkata) butter chicken. However, the Hannah Glasse curry recipe lacks a full complement of spices and the varying amounts of tomato sauce now so often used in the dish."
The cookery writer Sophia Waugh said that Glasse's food was what Jane Austen and her contemporaries would have eaten. Glasse is one of the five female writers discussed in Waugh's 2013 book Cooking People: The Writers Who Taught the English How to Eat.
Ian Mayes, writing in The Guardian, quotes Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable as stating "First catch your hare. This direction is generally attributed to Hannah Glasse, habit-maker to the Prince of Wales, and author of The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy". Her actual directions are, 'Take your Hare when it is cas'd, and make a pudding...' To 'case' means to take off the skin" [not "to catch"]; Mayes notes further that both the Oxford English Dictionary and The Dictionary of National Biography discuss the attribution.
As at 2015[update], Scott Herritt's "South End" restaurant in South Kensington, London serves some recipes from the book. The "Nourished Kitchen" website describes the effort required to translate Glasse's 18th-century recipes into modern cooking techniques.
The book ran through many editions, including: