“The White (Wo)Man’s Burden”: Household Management in the Colonies (With Bibliography)

Calcutta Governor General's Residence (Photo credit: Matt Booth)
Calcutta Governor General’s Residence (Photo credit: Matt Booth)

European women who lived in nineteenth- and twentieth-century foreign outposts sought authoritative voices to guide them through the challenges of living far from the familiar. Although local labor bore the brunt of  daily domestic work, wives of the colonialists need information on how to direct their servants.

And as the list below amply illustrates, plenty of authors and authoresses took up their pens to relieve the white woman’s burden.  Today, many of the books are scarce and rare.

Silver Condiment Spoon
Silver Condiment Spoon

Take Bon Appetit: Secrets from Shanghai Kitchens, by Lady Maze and Mrs. V. G. Bowden (1940), “compiled with the aim of benefiting British war funds.”  Owned by only eight libraries in the world, according to WorldCatBon Appetit reflects the Russian influence in Shanghai, as the first chapter starts out with the title “Cocktails and Zakouska.” Clearly Russian for hors d’oeuvre, zakouska (zakuska) represents the nineteenth-century entente between Russia and England, especially the close marriage ties so characteristic of the monarchies of those nations.

Postcard of the "Bund" in Shanghai
Postcard of the “Bund” in Shanghai — waterfront along the Huangpu river, Yangtze delta

Lady Maze’s husband, Sir Frederick Maze, nephew of Sir Robert Hart, served as Inspector-General of the Chinese Maritime Customs from 1937-1941. She contributed recipes for White Curry, Rice Ring, Sukiyaki (!), Spaghetti Bologna with meat Sauce, Gnocchie [sic], Chicken Mousse, Minced Kidney on Toast, and Wein-Chandeau (“Austrian first cousin to Italian zabaglione”). Altogether, a very sophisticated collection. Hardly of much use with the Japanese occupation of Shanghai.

Sir Andrew Noble contributed the following, “A Delicious Cocktail“:

1 part lemon juice.
1 part gin.
2/3rds part passion fruit juice.
1 dash Kirsch.
1 dash orange bitters.
Crushed ice.

And Mrs. Corfield put in her “Artichoke Crisps“:

Fry as potato crisps thin slices of artichoke seasoned with salt and cayenne. To serve with cocktails.

See also my previous posts on British colonial Africa:

A Dish (or Two) for Children in British Colonial Africa

A Cook in Colonial Africa

Bibliography of Colonial Cookbooks:

A.C.S. Memsahib’s Book of Cookery (India, 1894)

Adams, Wanda A. The Island Plate: 150 Years of Recipes and Food Lore from the Honolulu Advertiser (Waipahu, 2006)

Aldrich, Robert. Greater France: A History of French Overseas Expansion. (Palgrave Macmillan, 1996)

Allee, Hadjee. Receipts for Cooking the Most Favorite Dishes, in General Use in India (1850?)

Allen, Charles, ed. Plain Tales from the Raj (New York, 1976 — this is not a food book as such, but there is a chapter on the army mess.)

Anon. Dainty Dishes for Indian Tables (Calcutta, 1879)

Anon. Manual of Military Cooking and Dietary (London, 1933)

The Anglo-Hindoostanee Handbook (1850 — available on Google Books)

Atkinson, George Franklin. Curry and Rice on Forty Plates (London, 1859)

Barnes, Mrs. A. R. The Colonial Household Guide (Cape Town, 1890 — reprinted as Where the Lion Roars, 2006)

Barr, Pat. The Memsahibs (New Delhi, 1976)

Bartley, Mrs. J. Indian Cookery “General” for Young Housekeepers (Bombay, 1901, 4th edition)

Benedictine Sisters of Peking.  The Art of Chinese Cooking (Beijing, 1956)

Bond, Ruskin and Saili, Ganesh. The Landour Cookbook: Over Hundred Years of Hillside Cooking (New Delhi, 2001 — originally published in 1930)

La bonne cuisine aux tropiques : a simplified and abbreviated treatise on foods and their cooking as they are prepared in some tropical countries, especially Mauritius = traite simplifie et abrege des substances alimentaires et la facon de les preparer dans certains pays tropicaux, specialement a l’ile Maurice / produced in English and in French with a glossary in Hindustani by W.B. Collingridge. (Port Louis, 1954 — English text on left page, French text on right.)

Bradley, E. G. A Household Book for Tropical Colonies (London, 1948)

Bregion, Joseph and Miller, Anne. The Practical Cook, English and Foreign(London, 1845 — available on Google Books)

Brennan, Jennifer. Curries & Bugles: A Memoir & Cookbook of the British Raj (Boston, 2000)

Burke, W. S. Every-day Menus for Indian Housekeepers (Calcutta, 1909, 3rd edition)

Burnett, David and Saberi, Helen. The Road to Vindaloo: Curry Cooks & Curry Books (Prospect Books, 2008)

Burnett, John. Plenty and want: a social history of food in
England from 1815 to the present day. 3rd ed. (London, 1989.)

Burton, David. French Colonial Cookery (Faber & Faber, 2000)

Burton, David. The Raj at Table (Faber & Faber, 1993)

Byrde, Mrs. Bread, Butter, Pastries and Cakes in India and the Colonies (Calcutta, 1916)

Carne, Lucy. Simple Menus and Recipes for Camp, Home and Nursery (Calcutta, 1919)

Central Union Church, Honolulu, Woman’s Society. Hawaiian Cook Book (Honolulu, 1882)

Chataway, Mrs. N. The Bulawayo Cookery Book (Bulawayo, Rhodesia, 1909)

Chota Sahib. Camp Recipes for Camp People (Madras, 1890)

Collingham, Lizzie. Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors (Oxford, 2007)

Cook, G. H. The English-Indian Cookery Book (Agra, c. 1904)

Cooking with Bullets

Cordon Bleu. L’Art d’accommoder le riz: Petit Recueil de Recettes Pratiques pour mettre en valeur et faire apprecier un excellent Produit Colonial Français (Paris, 1931).

Crozier, Anna. Practising Colonial Medicine: The Colonial Medical Service in British East Africa (London, 2007)

Denning, Mrs. Margaret B. Dainty Cookery for the Home (Madras, 1911, 3rd edition)

Dey, Mrs. Indian Cookery and Confectionery (Calcutta, 1942)

Domestic Economy, and Cookery, for Rich and Poor, by a Lady (London, 1827 — available on Google Books)

Duckitt, Hildegonda. Hilda’s “Where is it?” of Recipes (London, 1891)

The Economical Cookery Book for India (Calcutta, 1920)

Favorite Recipes from the Abqaiq Woman’s Group (Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, 1953)

Fay, Eliza. Original Letters from India (London, 1986)

Firth, Alys. Dainty Cookery for Camp and Other Recipes (Benares, 1905)

Framji, Navroji. Indian Cookery “Local” for Young Housekeepers (Bombay, 1883)

Franklin, E. A. M. The Wife’s Cookery Book (Madras, 1906)

Gilmore, Mary. The Worker Cook Book (Sydney, 1914)

Gordon, Constance E. Anglo-Indian Cuisine (Khana Kitab) (Calcutta, 1913)

Hervey, Henrietta A. Anglo-Indian Cookery at Home: A Short Treatise for Returned Exiles by the wife of a retired Indian Officer (London, 1895)

Hobsbawm, E., and G., Rudé. Captain Swing (London, 1969)

Hulton, Blanche.  Curry Recipes: Selected from the Unpublished Collection of Sir Ranald Martin and by Mrs. Jessop Hulton (London, 1938)

The Indian Cookery Book (Calcutta, 1880 — available on Google Books and Gutenberg)

Johnston, James P.  A hundred years of eating: food, drink and
the daily diet in Britain since the late nineteenth century (Dublin, 1977)

Kenney-Herbet, Colonel. Wyvern’s Indian Cookery Book (Madras, 1869) (Look for this also under the following: Wyvern, Culinary Jottings: a treatise … reformed cookery for Anglo-Indian rites (1885 — available via the Internet Archive and Google Books)

Kerab. Indian Dishes for English Tables (London, 1910)

Khan, S. N. M. The Finest Indian Muslim Cooking (London, 1934)

Kohlhoff, C. C. Indian Cookery and Domestic Recipes (Madras, 1906, 2nd edition)

Le Gros Clark, F., and R., Titmuss. Our Food Problem. A study of national
security (Harmondsworth, 1939)

LeLan, Victor. Le Jardinage au Tonkin: Legumes indigènes & recettes pour les accommoder au goût français (Hanoi, 1916).

L. V. Indian Chutneys, Pickles and Preserves (Calcutta, 1914)

The Madras Cookery Book (Madras, 1927)

Making Colonial Beer and Wine

Maze, Lady and Bowden, Mrs. V. G. Bon Appétit: Secrets from Shanghai Kitchens (Shanghai, 1940)

Midgley, Janet.  Food for Today and Tomorrow: New & Improved Basutoland Cookery Book (Maseru, Basutoland, 1951)

Mintz, S. Sweetness and power: the place of sugar in modern history (New
York, 1986)

Muskett, Philip and Wicken, Mrs. H. The Art of Living in Australia: Together with Three Hundred Australian Cookery Recipes and Accessory Kitchen Information (London, 1893)

Nguyen Lan Chi. Sach Day Nau Mon An Tay(A How-to Book on French Dishes) (Saigon, c.1968 — written decades ago, this thick volume contains information on French ingredients, cooking methods and cultural values.)

Nhã, Mlle. La Cuisine de Cô-Nhã: pour manger sain; pour manger bon; pour manger à bon marché (Annam, 1944)

Noter, R. de (preface by Paul Reboux). La Bonne cuisine aux colonies: Asie – Afrique – Amerique: 400 recettes exquises ou pittoresques (Paris, 1931)

Oddy, D. J., and D. Miller. The making of the modern British
diet  (London, 1976)

Old Lady Resident, An. The Original Madras Cookery Book (Madras, 1874)

Olechnowicz, A. Working-class housing in England between the wars: the
Becontree Estate (Oxford, 1997)

Pugh, M. ‘We danced all night’: a social history of Britain
between the Wars (London, 2009)

Querillac, Anne, ed. Cuisine coloniale: Les bonnes recettes de Chloé Mondésir (Paris, 1931).

Rabette, Catherin. La cuisine exotique chez soi, avec des souvenirs gastronomiques recueillis (Paris, 1931).

Rankin, Louise. An American Cookbook for India Calcutta (London,193-)

Rea, Pat and Ting, Regina. A Hundred Years of Island Cooking (Honolulu, 1991)

Riddell, R. Indian Domestic Economy and Receipt Book (1860 — available on Google Books)

Quanoon-e-Islam (few recipes from p. xxix, 1863 —  available from Google Books)

St. Andrew’s Church Woman’s Guild. The Kenya Settlers’ Cookery Book and Household Guide (Nairobi, 1928)

Sandbrook, D. Never had it so good: a history of Britain from Suez to the
Beatles. (London, 2006)

Sen, Colleen. Food Culture in India (2004)

_____. Curry: A Global History (London, 2009)

“Shalot.” Things for the Cook (Calcutta, 1914, 2nd edition)

Shelton, Mrs. A. K. Dainty Confections: 400 Splendid Recipes for Puddings, Bread, Cakes and Sweets (Calcutta, 1918)

Smith, Elder. The Englishwoman in India: containing information for the use of ladies proceeding to, or residing in, the East Indies, on the subjects of their outfit, furniture, housekeeping . To which are added receipts for Indian cookery, by a lady resident. (recipes p 115 et seq, 1864 — available on Google Books)

Soyer, Alexis. A shilling cookery for the people; embracing an
entirely new system of plain cookery and domestic economy (London, 1854)

Spencer, C. British food: an extraordinary thousand years of history (London, 2002)

Spry, Angela. The Mem Sahibs Book of Cookery (Allahabad, 1894)

Steel, F. A. and Gardiner, G. The Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook (Bombay 1893; available on Google Books)

Temple-Wright, Mrs. R. Baker and Cook: A Domestic Manual for India (1894, 2nd edition)

Terry, Richard. Indian Cookery (London, 1861)

Tew, Muriel R. Cooking in West Africa: A Colonial Guide (Reprint: Jeppestown Press, 2007)

Thompson, E. The making of the English working class
(Harmondsworth, 1991)

Vernon, J. Hunger: a modern history (London, 2007)

Vincent, Adebisi. A Cookery Book for the Tropics (London, 1962)

The Warren Hastings Book of Indian Condiments (Calcutta, 1917)

Wilt, A. Food for war: agriculture and rearmament in Britain
before the Second World War (New York, 2001)

Yule, H., Colonel, and Burnell, A. C. Hobson-Jobson. A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases (London, 1985)

[A special thanks to several members of the ASFS listserv who suggested several titles.]

© 2009 C. Bertelsen

Shanghai's Bund
Shanghai’s Bund

9 thoughts on ““The White (Wo)Man’s Burden”: Household Management in the Colonies (With Bibliography)

  1. Hi Cindy,
    I’m preparing to celebrate Women’s History Month this month and I must figure out a way to include this post. The bibliography is absolutely amazing. Oh how I wish I had more time…Thank you so much for all of your precious time and energy. You’ve done an amazing job…


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