Recipes from 1790

Het Receptenboek van mevrouw Marselis (The Recipe Book of Mrs. Marselis) published in 1790 gives a wonderful insight in the household and kitchen of an upper middle-class family in the 18th century. Mrs. Marselis (the lady of the house) wrote down instructions for her cook. Mrs. Marselis enjoyed dinners and lunches when she was visiting friends and family, she read cookbooks and collected recipes. Back home she explained to her cook how to prepare the food that she wanted to be served to her family and guests. Unfortunately she doesn’t include menus, so it’s not clear how her meals looked. She probably served various dishes at once (Service à la Française) as was custom until the mid-19th century.

The cook and her staff (perhaps 4 people) worked many hours in the kitchen downstairs to prepare cakes, beef, fish, chicken, pies, cookies, veal, soups, ragouts etcetera. You won’t find many recipes for vegetables because these were considered to be phlegmatic (slimy, cold, wet) and perhaps even more important, vegetables were eaten by the lower classes.

500 Recipes

She does include a recipe for snow peas: these are cooked in butter and water. Adding chopped onion is optional. When the peas are soft, the cook adds some sweet cream and one or two beaten eggs. And one for spinach: it is cooked until really well done, then chopped and stewed with butter, nutmeg and stock.

Some of the recipes are intriguing, for instance: shrimps are cooked in water with vinegar, anchovies, peppers and mace. When done, the shrimps are combined with cold butter to be served with salmon. Others are very tempting, for instance ravioli with a filing made of veal, parsley, pepper, nutmeg, mace, Parmesan cheese and butter. Sounds yummy!

Mushrooms are also on the menu, so we decided to follow Mrs. Marselis instruction and prepare mushrooms cooked in cream. It’s a rich, tasty sauce that enveloped the pasta very nicely. The combination of mushrooms and nutmeg works remarkably well. One to prepare more often! Recipe this week on Thursday, July 14th.
The pasta was our own idea; Mrs. Marselis doesn’t mention what the sauce is supposed to accompany.

Het Receptenboek van mevrouw Marselis, in Dutch only, is out of print. A second-hand copy will cost approximately € 15,00.


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