Mrs Beeton's All About Cookery By Mrs Beeton Available on Amazon.com; for older volumes, search on eBay. It's hard to imagine any modern cook having as big an influence on the general population as Mrs Beeton (born Isabella Mary Mayson) did when Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management was first published in 1861. Housework and cooking were backbreaking, never-ending and potentially dangerous and Beeton gave Victorian housewives a guide on everything from cooking for children and invalids to managing servants. The book was an instant bestseller and went through many reprints, editions and permutations, including this one, which focuses on the recipes. We tend to think of the Victorians as being austere but from Beeton's recipes, we can see they enjoyed the pleasures of the table (those who could afford to, anyway). Beeton was surprisingly modern in her precision: she used standard weights and measurements for ingredients and gave approximate cooking times. Despite this, the recipes couldn't have been much fun to follow because they involve a lot of time and hard work and, of course, there were no electric appliances; sugar, for instance, came not as fine white crystals but as a large, hard 'loaf' that had to be pulverised or grated. An added point of interest is the prices of the day: at the end of most recipes, Beeton lists the approximate cost of the ingredients; a roast goose was 7 shillings and 6 pence while dressed crab to feed three cost 1 shilling and 3 pence.