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OP: Mrs. Gilpin's Frugalities

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by Susan Anna Brown

Subtitled Remnants, and 200 Ways of Using Them, this attractive book promises to rid Americans of their wastefulness in the kitchen.

Author Susan Anna Brown produced a number of home economics books in the 1880s, but Mrs. Gilpin is one of the more well known. She draws her titular character, Mrs. Gilpin, from a popular late 18th century William Cowper comedic ballad called The Diverting History of John Gilpin. The relevant verse of which is printed on the cover: “John Gilpin kissed his loving wife;/ Oerjoyed was he to find,/ That though on pleasure she was bent/ She had a frugal mind.”

With Mrs. Gilpin’s philosophy of prudent epicureanism in mind, the recipes, written in prose, offer the means to repurpose leftovers. Meat dishes receive heavy emphasis. Mutton réchauffé (that is, reheated) supposes you might have a spare leg of lamb from which “only a few slices have been cut.” To make a presentable dish anew, simply reheat the leg, cover the cut end with mashed potatoes, dress in gravy, and brown in the oven. Et voilà

Cold macaroni may be arranged in a buttered dish, gratinéed, and dressed with leftover chicken warmed in gravy. Unused mashed potatoes are reimagined as dumplings—molded with teacups—baked with a pat of butter laid atop; or as Roman potatoes—a dish resembling fried gnocchi.

Our copy is an 1883 first printing in Very Good condition. The interior, printed in an attractive brown ink, is largely clean though does bear stains and splatters here and there. The spine had become weak enough that we had it replaced with a burgundy cloth matching the cover illustration. The original boards and endpapers remain, much to our pleasure. Oblong format (7.75” x 5.25”). An excellent example of the Victorian sense of morality and economy in a handsome cookbook package.

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