Chawton House Library, a leading study centre for early English women’s writing, is to host a talk and book signing event for Sophia Waugh’s latest book, Cooking People: The Writers Who Taught The English How To Eat, which focuses on five female writers who have revolutionised home cooking.
Waugh will talk about the differences – and the similarities – between cooking several centuries ago and now, from Hannah Woolley who was, in the seventeenth century, the first woman to make a living from cookery writing, to the much-loved Isabella Beeton and Elizabeth David.
Eighteenth century writer, Hannah Glasse, is also featured in the book and an original eighth edition from 1763 of her best-known work, The Art of Cookery, is held in Chawton House Library’s 1600 to 1830 collection. The study centre is also home to rare manuscripts by authors including Jane Austen.
The event, which includes a cookery demonstration and an exhibition of original cookery books from the seventeenth and eighteen centuries that feature recipes such as “hedge-hog pudding” and a “currey” in the “Indian way”, is on Saturday, 22 March, from 2.30pm to 4.30pm at Chawton House Library in Chawton, Hampshire.
Keith Arscott, Chief Development Officer at Chawton House Library, said: “At one time people didn’t think the English knew how to cook and yet these female writers were at the forefront of modern day cooking. Even back in 1700s they were making clear that you shouldn’t overcook your vegetables.”
He added: “What often comes across from the collection of works we have at Chawton House Library is how modern some of these early female writers sound and how much we can still learn from them today.
“The writers featured in Sophia Waugh’s Cooking People were some of the first women to earn money from writing a cookery book all that time ago. They are the forerunners to today’s TV celebrity chefs.”
Sophia Waugh is the author of four novels and a biography of Marina, Duchess of Kent, and is the granddaughter Evelyn Waugh. Cooking People is her latest title.
“Coming to Chawton House is a tremendous joy for me as it combines my two loves – food and literature. Cooking People is about the five women who changed the way the English eat and I am very excited that Chawton House Library has a copy of Hannah Glasse’s book, The Art of Cookery,” said Waugh.
“It is on the work of Hannah Glasse that I will mostly be focusing in my talk and cookery demonstration in March. She is an eighteenth century writer and it is her food that would have been eaten by Austen and her contemporaries,” she added.
Chawton House is more than 400 years old and is regularly open to visitors, alongside library readers, for tours and during public events. It also runs educational and outreach projects with schools and colleges and fosters links internationally.