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Can Mrs Lance Rawson fix my Heston Blumenthal problem?

8 Dec

Yesterday, my copy of Heston Blumenthal at Home arrived in the mail. Study be damned! Deborah Jean Kasnitz’s Work, Gender and Health Among Southern Italian Immigrants in Melbourne wasn’t going anywhere, so, tempted by Heston’s dear face peeking into his fridge on the cover, I decided I could have a quick flick through.

Heston Blumenthal at Home book cover

Study or Heston? What would you choose?

Three hours later, after delighting in the Salted butter caramels wrapped in edible cellophane, wondering aloud if the Scallop tartare with white chocolate really worked as a flavour combination, marvelling at the regal purple colour of the Red cabbage gazpacho and wishing I could try a big scoop of that famous Bacon and egg ice cream, I had a problem.

I needed a sous vide machine, a vacuum packer, a cream whipper and a pressure cooker. And a digital probe. And maybe a refractometer too. And I needed them now. You wouldn’t send an astronaut into space without the right equipment, so how could I be expected to go boldly into the new world of scientific kitchen exploration without them? Answer: I couldn’t.

Ok, so it’s a very first world problem, but what’s a true Heston fan to do? Especially when that Heston fan is a poor PhD student? I tell you despair nearly drove me back to Work, Gender and Health Among Southern Italian Immigrants in Melbourne but, just in time, I remembered the rather prolific Mrs Lance Rawson, who wrote the 1895 classic, The Antipodean Cookery Book and Kitchen Companion. Mrs Rawson has advice for when you’re a woman and you just need something new, like a bonnet, for example:

The husband is a creature of appetite, believe me, and not to be approached upon any important matter, such as a new bonnet or a silk dress, on an empty stomach.

This is good news. Against all the odds, I actually have a husband! So if I want a water bath, all I have to do is feed him well?

Yes, says Mrs Rawson:

Man must be cooked for. He’ll do without shirt-buttons, and he’ll do without his slippers, but he will not do without his dinner, nor is he inclined to accept excuses as regards under- or over-done meals after the first week or so of the honeymoon. If there be any young girls reading these pages who are contemplating marriage in the near future, take an old wife’s advice and learn to cook, for only by feeding him well will you succeed in gaining your husband’s respect and keeping his affection.

Well, I can cook, but oh no! It might be too late:

Let me suggest to prospective brides that they should stipulate for a stove if marrying a Bushman. A man will promise anything before marriage, very little after.

Damn it, have I missed the boat? Should I have vowed “I promise to love and obey but only if you get me everything listed under Specialist kit on pages 389 to 393 of Heston Blumenthal at Home.“? I can’t believe I went with traditional vows! So stupid of me…

Or, here’s a novel idea, maybe I could work and earn my own money to buy a sous vide machine?

Nah, Mrs Rawson wouldn’t approve, and I just couldn’t let her down.


  • Blumenthal, Heston. Heston Blumenthal at Home. London: Bloomsbury, 2011.
  • Rawson, Mrs Lance. The Antipodean Cookery Book and Kitchen Companion. Melbourne: George Robertson &​ Co., 1895.

What Elizabeth David told us Aussies…

14 Sep

In 1953, the great Elizabeth David – she who introduced the wonders of Italian food to the heavily fish and chip-dependent Brits  –  had some advice for Australians.

In a fabulously named article  – “A new ‘Mrs Beeton,’ but she likes garlic” – David sings the praises of snails smothered in butter made with, well, garlic,  talks about the upcoming publication of her book Italian Food and shares some Australia-specific thoughts with the Courier-Mail correspondent, who, diligently, went looking for the local angle, no doubt to please his editor back in Brisbane. Anyway, here’s what she had to say about us:

  1.  She is flattered by the volume of fan mail from Australians but is “stumped” by the questions that come with it, often about substitutions for different ingredients. I can imagine those  letters …“Dear Mrs David, Can I substitute witchetty grubs for snails…”
  2. “She thinks Australians are on the right track in adopting minestrone from Italian migrants as almost an Australian national dish.” News to me that we almost did this, and had I been the Courier-Mail correspondent I would’ve asked where she got her national dish information from. A Gallup poll perhaps? Roy Morgan?
  3. “Mrs. David hopes the Australian housewife is using plenty of wine in her cooking. In a major wine producing country it would be a sin to exclude it from the kitchen, she says.” We might have been a wine producing country but in 1953 we were still serious wowsers, with 6 o’clock closing enforced in most pubs around the country and wine drinkers looked on with suspicion.
  4. “She says the French learned cooking from the Italians and that everybody else should do likewise.” And that, dear readers, is something I can’t argue with at all…


  • “A new “Mrs Beeton,” but she likes garlic,” The Courier-Mail,  26 October 1953, 8.

English breakfast

25 Mar
English breakfast

English breakfast in London circa June 2010. Is it that different from what Isabella Beeton is proposing?

Never know what to serve for breakfast? Think cereal is ok? Maybe toast and jam? Isabella Beeton, that 19h century doyenne of all things cooking, would think you were a jelly short of a proper luncheon. Here’s what she recommends for the “comfortable meal called breakfast”:

Broiled fish, such as mackerel, whiting, herrings, dried haddocks, &c.; mutton chops and rump-steaks, broiled sheep’s kidneys, kidneys à la maître d’hôtel, sausages, plain rashers of bacon, bacon and poached eggs, ham and poached eggs, omelets, plain boiled eggs, oeufs-au-plat, poached eggs on toast, muffins, toast, marmalade, butter, &c. &c.

I wonder if it’s low GI…

Btw if you have any interest in Mrs Beeton at all, and even if you don’t, be sure to read Kathryn Hughes’ biography – once you’ve read it, you’ll never think of Isabella in the same way again.