The Art of Cookery: A Culinary Search for Cultural and National Identity in Great Britain, 1750-1850
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This thesis discusses how published cookbooks reflect the complicated attitudes toward identity in Great Britain between 1750 and 1850. Focusing on cookbooks produced as commercial products, we are able to see how gender, national, and regional identity was expressed through the introductory pages of a cookbook as well as the recipes that were included. The gendered differences in professional training in Britain resulted in two very different categories of published cookbooks. Male-authored books were more appreciative of foreign cuisine, since these authors had technical training in France’s nouvelle cuisine. Since women most often gained their knowledge of cooking through experiences as housewives or housekeepers, the female-authored cookbooks more overtly expressed the development of a British national identity. This contributed to the overall trend of anti-French sentiment into the nineteenth century through cookbook introductions and the exclusion of French recipes, especially as Anglo-French tensions reached high points during this period. A paradox existed as the middling classes expressed loyalty to the nation while also conforming to the current fashion of French cuisine. Within the culinary world authors tried to satisfy the middle class by including French recipes in their cookbooks while also touting their loyalty to Britain and their preference for “British” cuisine. However, even though nationalistic sentiment increased during periods of intense commercial and political competition with France, regional distinctions never disappeared from the British Isles. This project shows that although a unique “British” identity was forming during the eighteenth and nineteenth century, British subjects retained regional distinctions such as Scottish, Irish and Welsh. Published cookbooks show both a decrease in French recipes and an increase in regionally distinctive recipes over the course of a century. By the end of the Napoleonic Wars, French cuisine had been equated with expense and ostentation, gaining a very negative view in the eyes of cookbook authors. At the same time though, recipes reflected distinct regional influences, illustrating the importance of maintain cultural distinctions. Rather than a homogenization of British culture, or the conflation of “English” and “British,” the various cultures within Great Britain maintained their importance in the eyes of the people.
Schmidt, Elizabeth (2014). The Art of Cookery: A Culinary Search for Cultural and National Identity in Great Britain, 1750-1850. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from