“Keep Flouring it till the Eyes Drop Out”


Music: Playtime Songs by The Countdown Kids. Released: 2002

One of the great things about having so many cookbooks is tracing the history of cooking techniques and cookery advice. Marketing, food trends and such were popular topics in 18th and 19th century cookbooks. Hannah Glasse, in her classic “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy”, first published in 1747, provided very detailed descriptions of how to market, select and purchase comestibles such as meat, fish, vegetables, etc.


“See dear….this one is green and slimy and smells…if only we had “use by” labels” (Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest.com)

Presumably, her advice was based on her own experiences and the use of her senses: smell, sight, touch, and on occasion, taste. To select mutton, she advises that “If there be rot, the flesh will be palish, and the fat a faint whitish, inclining to yellow…”.

Pork selection requires intense scrutiny: “As for old and new killed, try the legs, hands and springs, by putting your finger under the bone that comes out: for if it be tainted, you will there find it by smelling your finger; beside the skin will be sweaty and clammy when stale, but cool and smooth when new”.

“Excuse me, but would you unwrap this so I could stick my finger inside to see if it’s fresh?” (Photo Credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk)

When was the last time you asked a butcher (if you even saw one at your local supermarket), if you could poke your finger into a pork roast?

“We charge extra if you want to stick your finger into our meat” (Photo Credit: http://www.AlleyWatch.com)






Or, opened a carton of eggs in the grocery store and licked one? (“Eggs hold the great end to your tongue; if it feels warm, be sure it is new…”) Certainly makes a case for washing your eggs first before cracking them open!

“But grocery guy, Mom told me to lick the end to see if it was fresh!” (Photo Credit: http://www.lifetimeofspring.                    blogspot.com)







“I think this egg is a little old, grocery guy…” (Photo Credit: http://www.webmd.com)

When it comes to actually cooking your finely selected purchases, Hannah advises that to roast a pig, “…take a little sage shred small, a piece of butter as big as a walnut, and a little pepper and salt; put them into the pig and sew it up with coarse thread: then flour it all over very well, and keep flouring it till the eyes drop out…” No mention of what to do with the little orbs once they have fallen into the firepit.

“No, this is beef. I got grossed out when I roasted the pig and his eyes dropped out!” (Photo Credit: http://www.janeaustens world.wordpress.com)

Clearly, cheese selection in Hannah’s time was an art: “…if old cheese be rough-coated, rugged, or dry at top, beware of little worms of mites: if it be over full of holes, moist or spongy, it is subject to maggots”. Not a pretty picture.

“No maggots, so it must be fresh…” (Photo Credit: http://www.mirror.co.uk)


Small birds were a mainstay dish in the late 18th century, including Woodcock and Snipe. Hannah advises that “The Woodcock, if fat, is thick and hard; if new, limber-footed: when stale, dry-footed: or if their noses are snotty and their throats muddy and Moorish, they are not good”. Makes sense to me. Few things are worse than a Woodcock with a snotty nose.

Now, as to the variety of comestibles, which people will partake of, although some of us (myself included) might find it a tad squeamish to even consider downing a goblet of fresh pig’s blood (or cow‘s blood), in 1893, Helen Campbell in her book “The Easiest Way in Housekeeping and Cooking”, discusses the popularity of blood-puddings among the Germans. She suggests that “…we are not likely to adopt their use. Fresh blood has, however, been found of wonderful effect for consumptive patients and there are certain slaughter-houses in our large cities where every day pale invalids are to be found waiting for the goblet of almost living food from the veins of the still warm animal. Horrible as it seems, the taste for it is soon acquired ; and certainly the good results warrant at least the effort to acquire it.” (Dracula: your supply may be diminishing!)

“I’d better stay in Transylvania….I hear there’s a shortage of blood in America…” (Photo Credit: http://www.us.blastingnews.com)

There is an answer for just about anything in some early cookbooks. For example, I had never given a lot of thought to the effects of moonlight on fish (have you?) According to Virginia Reed, in her 1896 book, “The Way we Did at Cooking School”, moonlight causes fish to spoil “…on account, of the attraction it has for the phosphorus in the fish”.

Must have been caught on a moonlit night. (Photo Credit: http://www.webmd.com)


I’m not clear on the exact causal relationship here, but the bottom line suggests that you should only fish during daylight hours.

Apparently a live fish will not spoil when the sun is shining. The peril comes after he retires for the night.


“…something to do with the moon and phosphorous…” (Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest.com)






After all is said and done, Hannah Glasse might breathe a sigh of relief if she were marketing today. In addition to stringent Federal standards for the sale of fresh and processed foods and “use by” labels, she might even invest in a Stable Micro System instrument to measure the ripeness in fruits, or a Stable Micro System device, which measures the extensibility of pizza cheese. No more sniffing, poking or pulling.  Ah, behold the wonders of modern technology (but not nearly as much fun as poking your finger into the pork!)

“If only Hannah Glasse had an instrument to determine how ripe fruit is…. (Photo Credit: 111.2015dlg.org)

…or a device to test the elasticity of pizza cheese! (Photo Credit: http://www.2015dlg.org)

My EatYourBooks cookbook collection

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 6,500. What next? More shelves?
This entry was posted in Collecting, Collections, Cookbooks, Cooking, Cooking and Social History, Cooking Technology, Food Trends, Guinness World Records, Uncategorized, Vintage Cookbooks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to “Keep Flouring it till the Eyes Drop Out”

  1. Jack says:

    Тһis is ɑ topic that’s close to mʏ ɦeart… Many thanks!
    Where are your ϲontact details though?

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