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OP: Practical Cooking and Dinner-Giving

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by Mary F. Henderson

For those who collect or are interested in Victorian style, this is a worthwhile book to know and own. Popular from the time of its publication by Harper & Brothers in 1877, Practical Cooking and Dinner-Giving remained in print until the beginning of the twentieth century. 

A compendium of sturdy dishes for an aspiring middle class, it stresses “fashionable modes of entertaining at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” The lengthy introduction covers everything from furnishing the kitchen to proper setting of the table, as well as providing the outlines of a variety of types of meals—breakfasts, luncheons, gentlemen’s suppers, evening parties. Stressing social correctness at one end of the spectrum and economy and simplicity at the other, it reflects much of the social character of its time. 

Mary Foote Henderson (1842–1913) notes in her opening comments that “No claim is made to originality,” asserting that “the author has willingly availed herself of the labors of others.” And so she draws on the inspiration of friends and relatives, as well as on prominent chefs such as the great Charles Elme Francatelli. 

A substantial book—some 376 pages—that provides a lucid vision of home cooking in High Victorian America. The text contains line engravings, some of food presentations and many of equipment and service pieces, including a substantial number of molds.

Our copy, an 1887 printing, is in overall Good Plus condition. The burgundy cloth case is well-worn, losing some of the illustrative ink. The spine has frayed at the head and foot, and the corners are rounded. The book block has suffered liquid damage about the edges, causing stiffening and rippling, particularly to the latter half. Otherwise the interior is largely clean and sturdy. We found prayer cards and cloth samples laid in, and we have left the handsome souvenirs for the next owner to appreciate. A nice addition to a period collection.

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