Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Dinner with Mrs. Rundell

by Maria Grace

Mrs. Rundell
New System of Domestic Cookery: Founded up Principles of Economy; and Adapted to the Use of Private Families, by Mrs. Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell (1745-December 16, 1828). ‘Mrs. Rundell’ as it was often referred to, was the most popular English cookbook of the first half of the nineteenth century. The first edition came out in 1806, several later editions were published with additions by other contributors.

At the time, few books on domestic management were available. Mrs. Rundel collected tips and recipes for her three daughters out of her thirty years’ experience running her household in Bath. Initially she planned to have four copies made, but Jane Austen’s publisher got involved and the rest is, as they say, history.

For anyone interested, replica editions have been published and the original itself is available free on line:  or

Mrs. Rundel’s book includes not only recipes, but advice for every day living in the early 1800’s. Who would have guessed stale white bread was good for cleaning wallpaper?

Just as cleaning methods changed, what foods are served for a meal have changed as well. For dinner I might serve a lasagna, green salad and dinner rolls, just a few dishes, covering the major food groups. Late Georgian dining was an entirely different affair.. A whole host of unfamiliar dishes and meal plans awaited me in the pages so generously penned by Mrs. Rundel.

She offered a number of dinner plans for family dinners. Her meal plans begin with five dishes at minimum and work very quickly all the way up to two courses of eleven dishes plus removes. (Removes were dishes that were replaced with something else part way through the course). I have to admit, the thought makes my head swim. For a big Thanksgivig dinner with all the relatives coming, I might make twelve dishes, not including dessert, which I try to have someone else bring. Twenty two to twenty four dishes and you might just need to lock me up in a room with very soft walls!

The contents of Mrs. Rundel’s menus were also very heavy on the meat dishes. For example, a five course meal might include: Half Calf's Head, grilled, (Remove and replace with Pie or Pudding.)Tongue and Brains, Carrot Soup, Greens round bacon, Saddle of Mutton, and Potatoes and Salad, at side table.  That’s three meat dishes out of the five.

Her most elaborate meal plan, ‘eleven and eleven, and two removes’ (below) made my head spin. It is hard to imagine how much kitchen staff it would take to accomplish this meal, especially when you take into consideration the lack of refrigeration and other modern conveniences. Notice the mix of dishes too. I would never serve a raspberry tart and lobster and duck all on the same course.


Salmon, (Remove and replace with Brisket of Beef stewed, and high Sauce,) Cauliflower, Fry,
Shrimp Sauce, Pigeon Pie, Stewed Cucumbers, Giblet Soup, Stewed Peas and Lettuce, Potatoes, Cutlets Maintenon, Anchovy Sauce, Veal Olives braised, Soles fried. (Remove and replace with Quarter Lamb roasted.)


Young Peas, Coffee Cream, Ramakins, Lobster, Raspberry Tart, Trifle,  Orange Tourt,
Grated Beef, Omlet, Roughed Jelly, Ducks.

Mrs. Rundel kindly includes recipes for many, though not all of these dishes. (I cannot for the life of me figure out what ‘Fry’ is.) A few of them are rather interesting.

I am not sure how many of these are going to show up on my dinner table. But I may just try the Stewed Cucumbers one of these days.


 Maria Grace is the author of Darcy's Decision,  The Future Mrs. Darcy, All the Appearance of Goodness, and Twelfth Night at LongbournRemember the Past, and Mistaking Her CharacterClick here to find her books on Amazon. For more on her writing and other Random Bits of Fascination, visit her website. You can also like her on Facebook, follow on Twitter or email her.


  1. I am starving now. Wonderful. Best wishes.

  2. Now I see why editors don't wish us to include details of a meal(s) in our books. Not only does that stop the progress of the story but can even confuse, not to mention disgust, a new reader of the period.

    1. I think your editor and I would drive each other crazy. Used correctly, I think these detail are vital to world buildiing and helping the reader to be in the setting. I think the trick is in their judicious use.

  3. Wow, that seems like a lot of food:) But it's still fascinating to see the everyday details of people's lives generations ago:)

  4. I think 'fry' are small/young fish, though not sure what kind. As in "small fry"

  5. I think 'fry' are small/young fish, though not sure what kind. As in "small fry"

  6. Fry is not fish in this context: it's a mixture of offal - testicles, liver, sweetbreads, heart, kidneys, brains, all mixed up together, sometimes with bacon as well, and fried in a pan. My Grandmother used to serve lambs fry and pigs fry, and both were delicious - though I'm not sure I'd have thought so if I'd known at the time what was in them!

  7. I would imagine a dinner guest would need to plan very carefully so as to be able to sample various dishes from each course. I am reading a Victorian novel in which all the leftovers are given to the poor. I can see why! Great post, Maria.

  8. Sounds like a healthy diet (not). Great post!


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