History of ‘Feed the Brute !’

"Feed the Brute !"  by Marjorie Swift, published in London in 1925

“Feed the Brute !” by Marjorie Swift, published in London in 1925

A number of years ago, I purchased cookbooks from an estate sale. Among them was a copy of ‘Feed the Brute !’, by Marjorie Swift, published by Geoffrey Bles, in London, England, in 1925. Ms. Swift acknowledges in the beginning of her book, that some of material in her book had appeared in articles in the Daily Mail, which she had obtained permission to produce in her book.

Ms. Swift says that ‘the “brute”, who in most cases has to work very hard to provide for his family, is rightly considered, in connection with culinary affairs at least, the most important member of the household’. In her advice to the young wife, she notes that:

“The well-fed man is a happy man – and a very easily ‘managed’ one too. And since we women know that to maintain harmony every man however clever, however efficient, however charming, must be ‘managed’; let us feed him well first and manage him afterwards.”

The rest of her book focuses on the difficulty of obtaining an English dinner, typical English dinners (with hints on cooking calf’s head), cooking for two, fish, sweetmeats and ‘Bachelor Cooking’. The ‘Bachelor’ is advised not to cook fish because ‘the smell of cooking fish so thoroughly permeates the atmosphere that it is almost impossible to get rid of it in a short space of time’. Wise advice for the bachelor that most likely resides in a rented bed-sitting room with a single gas ring.

After reading ‘Feed the Brute’ by Ms. Swift, I also located an article, which indicates that Christine Terhune Herrick, born in Newark, New Jersey in 1959, wrote a number of housekeeping articles and was thought to have co-authored ‘Feed the Brute !’ with Marjorie Swift, however, other than this single reference, I have been unable to confirm this or locate any other notes to this effect.

‘Feed the Brute’ seems to have become a popular phrase in early 20th century books about cooking and housekeeping and in her book, ‘Don’ts for Husbands, Don’ts for Wives’, published in 1913 and written by Blanche Ebbutt, she says “Don’t forget to “feed the brute” well. Much depends on the state of his digestion. Nothing upsets a hungry man’s temper more than being kept waiting for his dinner”. Ms. Ebbutt’s book was also published in London.

So, “Feed the Brute” by Marjorie Swift, was not the first mention of ‘the brute’, and he apparently made his presence known at least as early as 1913, in Ebbutt’s book, possibly earlier. The phrase seems to have caught the attention of authors seeking to give cooking, housekeeping and other ‘wifely’ advice to young brides.

In “Feed the Brute”, Ms. Swift advises all women, who wish to create and maintain happiness in the home, and “who desire the welfare and comfort of the men they love”, to “Feed the Brute!”.

I welcome the comments of readers and your thoughts. Would Marjorie’s book be considered ‘sexist’ by today’s standards? The saying I was familiar with years ago was that ‘the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach’. Perhaps this is a more refined version of ‘Feed the Brute’!

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About vintagecookbookery

Cookbook lover and collector with a burgeoning collection of cookbooks. Reading and researching food trends, history of cooking techniques and technological advances in cooking, what we eat and why and cookbooks as reflectors of cultures is a fascination for me. As of November 7th, 2013, I hold the current Guinness World Record title for the largest collection of cookbooks: 2,970 at the official count on July 14th, 2013 (applaud now, thank you very much!) The current (unofficial) number is now 6,037. What next? More shelves!
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2 Responses to History of ‘Feed the Brute !’

  1. Very interesting! Since I wrote about Marjorie Swift’s book, “Feed the Brute”, I have found other references to the phrase, including a BBC radio show, which first aired in April, 1940, called “Feed the Brute”. It ran after the 6:00 news and featured popular variety performers. Apparently, the show was a success and the recipes aired were later published by the Ministry of Food information. I also located reference to an old children’s book, which contained instructions for children to make simple toys. One was called “Feed the Brute”, and was basically a shoe box with a cardboard character glued to the inside, with a wide open mouth. A small piece of the shoe box was removed from the end and the children were supposed to roll marbles, or whatever, into the brute’s mouth. There are also other references by individuals, in addition to Marjorie Swift, in older books, alleging that it is better to “feed the brute”, thereby managing him, etc.!

  2. Renna Shesso says:

    I found these vintage photos of a home-grown British WWI victory parade. One wagon includes the phrase “Feed the Brute” and in searching for more about that phrase, I found your page – Thanks! Scroll through to locate the proper photo: http://www.vincents.org.uk/archives/312/nggallery/ww1-victory-parade/ww1-victory-parade-2/thumbnails

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