The accomplisht cook by Robert May
How to Cook Like a 17th Century Chef: A Guide to The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May
If you are a fan of historical cooking, you might have heard of The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May, the first major English cookbook published in 1660. This book is a treasure trove of recipes and cooking techniques from the Restoration era, when England was ruled by King Charles II after the death of Oliver Cromwell. The book contains over 500 recipes for dishes ranging from soups and broths to pies and puddings, as well as instructions for boiling, roasting, and frying meat, fish, and vegetables. The book also features some exotic ingredients and dishes that were introduced to Europe from the Americas, such as potatoes and turkey.
Robert May was a professional cook who worked for several aristocratic and royalist families in England and France. He learned his craft from his father, who was also a cook, and from his travels abroad. He wrote The Accomplisht Cook to share his knowledge and experience with other cooks and housewives, as well as to preserve the culinary traditions of his time. He dedicated his book to Lady Elizabeth Dormer, his first employer, who sent him to France to study cooking for five years.
In this article, we will explore some of the highlights of The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May, and learn how to cook like a 17th century chef. We will also compare some of his recipes with modern versions, and see how they have changed over time. We will also answer some frequently asked questions about the book and its author. Let’s get started!
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The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May: What You Need to Know
What is The Accomplisht Cook?
The Accomplisht Cook is an English cookery book published in 1660. It is the first major book of English recipes, and the first to group them logically into 24 sections. It is also one of the few cookery books published during the Commonwealth of Oliver Cromwell, when England was under a strict Puritan regime that banned many forms of entertainment and luxury.
The book is divided into three parts: the first part contains general instructions for cooking various kinds of meat, fish, and vegetables; the second part contains specific recipes for different dishes; and the third part contains menus for various occasions and seasons. The book also has a preface, a table of contents, an index, and several illustrations.
The book is written in a conversational style, with May addressing his readers directly and giving them tips and advice along the way. He also includes anecdotes and stories from his own life and career, as well as references to historical figures and events. He often praises his own skills and achievements, but also admits his mistakes and shortcomings.
The book is not only a cookbook, but also a historical document that reflects the social and cultural context of its time. It shows how cooking was influenced by politics, religion, trade, fashion, and taste. It also reveals the diversity and creativity of English cuisine in the 17th century, as well as its similarities and differences with other European cuisines.
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Why is The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May important?
The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May is important for several reasons:
- It is the first major book of English recipes, and the first to group them logically into sections.
- It is one of the few cookery books published during the Commonwealth of Oliver Cromwell, when England was under a strict Puritan regime that banned many forms of entertainment and luxury.
- It is one of the earliest sources of information on how potatoes and turkey were cooked in England after they were introduced from the Americas.
- It is a treasure trove of recipes and cooking techniques from the Restoration era, when England was ruled by King Charles II after the death of Oliver Cromwell.
- It is a historical document that reflects the social and cultural context of its time.
- It is a personal memoir that reveals the life and career of Robert May, a professional cook who worked for several aristocratic and royalist families in England and France.
- It is a literary work that showcases May’s style and humor, as well as his knowledge and experience.
How can I read The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May?
The Accomplisht Cook is available online for free at Project Gutenberg, where you can read it in various formats such as HTML, EPUB, or Kindle. You can also download it to your device or print it out if you prefer.
However, reading The Accomplisht Cook can be challenging for modern readers, because:
- The book is written in old English, with archaic spelling, grammar, and punctuation. For example, May uses ‘u’ instead of ‘v’, ‘i’ instead of ‘j’, and ‘f’ instead of ‘s’. He also capitalizes nouns and adjectives, and uses commas and colons instead of periods and semicolons. He also abbreviates some words and uses symbols for measurements and currencies.
- The book is not organized in a clear and consistent way, with recipes scattered throughout the sections and not always in order. May also does not provide lists of ingredients or quantities, but only mentions them in passing in his instructions. He also assumes that his readers have some basic knowledge and skills in cooking, and does not explain some terms or techniques that might be unfamiliar to modern cooks.
- The book contains some recipes and dishes that might be unappealing or impractical for modern tastes and lifestyles. For example, May includes recipes for cooking animals such as swan, crane, peacock, porpoise, seal, hedgehog, and snail. He also uses ingredients such as lard, suet, marrow, blood, brains, tripe, and ambergris. He also advises his readers to use spices such as pepper, cloves, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, ginger, saffron, and sugar liberally in their dishes.
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Therefore, if you want to read The Accomplisht Cook , you might need some help from:
- A modern edition of the book that has been edited and annotated to make it more accessible and understandable for modern readers. For example, you can check out the 1994 edition by Prospect Books, which has an introduction by Marcus Bell that provides historical and biographical context for the book and its author. It also has a glossary of terms and measurements, a bibliography of sources, and an index of recipes.
- A modern adaptation of the book that has been adapted and updated to make it more appealing and practical for modern cooks. For example, you can check out the 2015 edition by Quadrille Publishing, which has been adapted by Brian Ogden and illustrated by Lizzy Stewart. It features 70 recipes from the book that have been selected and simplified for modern kitchens. It also has tips on how to source ingredients, how to use equipment, and how to serve dishes.
- A modern commentary on the book that has been written by a food historian or a chef who has studied and experimented with the book and its recipes. For example, you can check out the blog The Accomplisht Cook, which is run by Ivan Day, a food historian who specializes in historical cookery. He posts articles on various topics related to the book and its author, such as the history of potatoes in England, the origin of turkey in Europe, or the art of pie making in the 17th century. He also posts photos and videos of his recreations of some of the dishes from the book.
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Here are some frequently asked questions about The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May and their answers:
- Q: Who was Robert May?
- A: Robert May was a professional cook who worked for several aristocratic and royalist families in England and France in the 17th century. He wrote The Accomplisht Cook to share his knowledge and experience with other cooks and housewives, as well as to preserve the culinary traditions of his time.
- Q: When and where was The Accomplisht Cook published?
- A: The Accomplisht Cook was first published in London in 1660, by Nathaniel Brooke. It went through several editions until 1685, with some additions and corrections by May himself.
- Q: What are some of the dishes that are unique to The Accomplisht Cook?
- A: Some of the dishes that are unique to The Accomplisht Cook are:
- A Grand Sallet, which is a salad made with various herbs, flowers, fruits, nuts, cheese, eggs, and meat.
- A Lumber Pie, which is a pie filled with minced meat, cheese, eggs, currants, raisins, sugar, and spices.
- A Quaking Pudding, which is a pudding made with cream, eggs, bread crumbs, sugar, rose water, and spices.
- A Tansie, which is a pancake made with eggs, cream, sugar, tansy (a bitter herb), and butter.
The Accomplisht Cook is a fascinating book that shows us how people cooked and ate in the 17th century. It is not only a cookbook, but also a historical document, a personal memoir, and a literary work. It contains hundreds of recipes and cooking techniques that reflect the diversity and creativity of English cuisine at the time. It also reveals the influence of politics, religion, trade, fashion, and taste on cooking. It is a valuable source of information and inspiration for anyone interested in historical cooking or food history.
If you want to read The Accomplisht Cook , you can find it online for free at Project Gutenberg, or you can buy a modern edition or adaptation that has been edited or updated for modern readers and cooks. You can also follow the blog The Accomplisht Cook, where you can find articles, photos, and videos on various topics related to the book and its author.
I hope you enjoyed this article on how to cook like a 17th century chef. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. I would love to hear from you. 😊
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