Modern Cookery, in All Its Branches

 This volume in the American Antiquarian Cookbook Collection, published in 1845 in Philadelphia, is one of the great masterpieces of English cooking, adapted for local American households by an important and influential cookbook writer, the editor of the classic nineteenth century women’s magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book.

Eliza Action’s masterpiece set out the fundamentals of domestic English cookery and offered a wealth of dishes for every occasion. The recipes are a model of sensible instruction for preparing food simply but well. This authoritative book was not only a guide to the best English cooking, but unusually for the time, it also contained recipes for German, Indian, and Caribbean dishes. Acton’s book introduced the now-universal practice of listing ingredients and suggested cooking times for each recipe, and it included the first print recipe for Brussels Sprouts. Original illustrations and instructions on basic techniques ranging from frying fish to roasting meat conveyed in Acton’s elegant prose make the book a quintessential tome packed full of wisdom, common sense, and culinary delights.

No wonder the doyenne of American woman’s affairs, the editor of the most influential and widely read magazine of the day, Godey’s Lady’s Book, chose to adapt the book for her American readers. In her preface, Sarah Hale gushes that the work is well adapted to the wants of this country at the present time, and that it is so complete she has little to add except regarding preparation of foods that are more strictly American such as Indian Corn, Terrapin, and others. She carefully marked her additional matter in brackets, and she did revise some articles and terms not generally known here. The result is a treasury of international cuisine written by two experts that was published and reprinted for decades.

This edition of Modern Cookery, in All Its Branches was reproduced by permission from the volume in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. Founded in 1812 by Isaiah Thomas, a Revolutionary War patriot and successful printer and publisher, the society is a research library documenting the lives of Americans from the colonial era through 1876. The society collects, preserves, and makes available as complete a record as possible of the printed materials from the early American experience. The cookbook collection comprises approximately 1,100 volumes.

About the Author

Eliza Acton was an English poet and cook born in Sussex in 1799. Her first verse was published in 1826, and she continued to publish single, longer poems, but it was her Modern Cookery that garnered her widest acclaim. It was an immensely influential book, extravagantly praised, that served as an early model for contemporary writing about cookery, and it remained in print until 1914. 

Sarah Josepha Hale was the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, the most influential American magazine published in the 19th century, for 40 years. With this role, Hale became the final and definitive resource on national taste for decades, and she wrote over 50 books. Among her numerous significant contributions to American culture, Hale is credited with making Thanksgiving a national holiday, helping to found Vassar College, penning “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and encouraging the higher education of women. She died in 1879 at the age of 90.

This website contains affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links, you don’t pay a penny more, but we receive a small commission.