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England: Mrs. De Salis's "Savouries A La Mode"

Celebrity chefs are nothing new. The only difference between those of previous centuries and the ones we know now is the comparative power and reach of the mass media through which their work spread.

There is some speculation on the Web about the identity of Harriet de Salis. Some people think maybe she was a corporate fiction, like Betty Crocker. However, she flourished in a period when such fictions weren't common, and indeed were looked down upon. As far as EuroCuisineLady can tell, she was a real person. She had a regular column in the rather upmarket 19th-century women's periodical Ladies' Realm. But the real source of her fame was her series of little cookbooks, almost all of which had the words Á La Mode -- "stylish" -- in their titles. They went through tens of printings each, totaling hundreds of thousands of copies, and were wildly popular.

These little books -- all of them are paperback size, though in hard covers -- are short, sweet and to the point. Mrs. de Salis's recipes are designed for the lady of the house who can no longer afford a cook or similar kitchen "help", or prefers to do without one. Harriet's recipes are simple and straightforward, but not old-fashioned except to our eyes: she constantly references modern prepared food products like bottled sauces and so forth, and expects her late-1800's-early-1900's readership to be familiar with such hot new household appliances as refrigerators.

The cookbooks are getting increasingly hard to find. Some now command hefty prices from specialty booksellers. However, their contents are in the public domain now, and free to distribute to those who're looking for something new... or maybe old.

Here for your downloading pleasure is an Adobe Acrobat-based scan of our copy of Mrs. de Salis's little treatise on appetizers / starters, Savouries Á La Mode. Please note that this is a 22 megabyte download. (The book itself is 78 pages.)

Enjoy!