Mrs. Barlow’s Tasteful Advisements to Young Matrons and Overwrought Mothers of Daughters: Broths, Soups, and Gravies

C’est la soupe qui fait le Soldat.

French Proverb.

Soup has been termed the vestibule to a banquet. We call it the only true foundation to the principal repast of the day, whether it be a Cottage or a Cabinet dinner. With this belief we hold as maxims, that the French take the lead of all European people in soups and broths, that the Scotch rank second, the Welsh next, and that the English, as a nation, are at the very bottom of the scale; and farther, that if soup be the foundation of a good dinner, it is equally true that beef is the only foundation of good soup. Whether brown or white, plain or rich, the basis must still be beef,—fresh-killed, juicy young beef, and soft pure water. The essential qualities of soup are, that it be nourishing and restorative. It is the food of childhood and extreme old age, of the declining and the debilitated, for whom the soup-pot performs half the offices of the digestive organs. With these invigorating and salutiferous qualities, the mildest, the richest, and the most poignant relishes may be combined, by the judicious employment of the numerous ingredients which go to the composition of soups. The capital defect of soups is generally not so much the want of meat as of the time necessary to the due concoction of a rich fluid composed of so many ingredients. These defects it is vainly attempted to conceal by the excessive use of pepper and herbs. The following elementary rules, from the French of the chemist Parmentier, were assumed by the Club as practical directions to the cook.

Rules for Making Nourishing Broth

  1. Sound healthful viands.
  2. Vessels of earthenware in preference to those of metal, as a less degree of heat keeps them boiling; and once heated, a few hot cinders will maintain that slight degree of ebullition which is wanted.
  3. Double the weight of water to that of the meat used.
  4. A sufficient quantity of common salt to facilitate the separation of the blood and slime that coagulates under the form of scum.
  5. In the early stage of the process such a degree of heat as will throw off the whole scum.
  6. A lower, but an equal temperature, that the soup may simmer gently till the substances employed, whether nutritive, colouring, or flavouring, are perfectly combined with the water, according to their several degrees of solubility.

Some soups are very good when made the day before they are to be eaten, as the top-fat can be removed in a cake, and they attain more complete consistence… without losing their flavour, but they need not be seasoned till wanted; and should then be slowly heated to the boiling point: if permitted to boil, some soups will lose part of their flavour; and of soups with meat, the meat will harden. Excellent judges differ on this point. Many think every hot preparation best when fresh cooked, and soups of the number. Of this kind are brown soup, hare soup, soup of game of any kind, giblet soup, and generally all soups made of the meat of animals of mature growth. Soups into which vegetables and young meats enter in any quantity, are best when fresh made, as those things have a strong tendency to ferment. This also holds of veal and fish soups… In all English books on cookery there is too much wine ordered for soups, and sometimes too little meat. The former error is less dangerous, as what is levied from the cellar does not always find its way to the soup-pot. All roots, bread-raspings, barley, and meal, for plain common soups, ought to be put in as soon as the pot is skimmed, when the roots are merely intended to thicken and flavour the soup. When to be cut in pieces and served in the broth, an hour’s boiling is fully enough for carrot, turnip, onions, &c. Many things are used to thicken and give consistence to common soups and sauces. The best perhaps is fine toasted oatmeal, potato mucilage, or bread not too stale. When the soup or gravy is too much boiled in, the waste must be supplied with boiling water or broth; and though we strenuously recommend, in general, close-covered pots, yet when the soup is watery and weak the lid may be taken off till the watery particles evaporate; for thickening gives consistence, but not strength… Broth made of fat meat may have a larger proportion of greens, leeks, cabbage, or whatever green vegetable is used, than leaner meat. The best plain browning for soups, sauces, gravies, &c., is red wine, soy, or mushroom or walnut catsup… The cook is entreated to bear in mind, that the elegance of all brown soups consists in transparency, united with richness and flavour; of white soups, and fish and vegetable soups, in the goodness of the desired colour and fullness on the palate.

Soup may be made in an infinity of ways. There is no end to the combinations of meat, games, fish, herbs, roots, spices, and mucilage, with water; but the basis of the best soup is, as we have said, beef,—fresh, full of juices, young, succulent, and not too fat,—the lean parts of a fat animal.

Introducing Mrs. Barlow

Mrs. Leah Barlow

Mrs. Leah Barlow, mother of five lovely daughters herself, has graciously condescended to provide Susana’s Parlour with some of her tasteful advisements on housewifely matters, such as meal planning and the rearing of children, in hopes that our readers will find them informative. Having recently set up a Twitter account where she will be sharing her most treasured household tips, she hopes many of you will follow her:

Much of her advice comes from this manual, which she insists should be in every housewife’s possession:

The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, Containing the Most approved Modern Receipts for Making Soups, Gravies, Sauces, Regouts, and All Made-dishes; and for Pies, Puddings, Pickles, and Preserves; Also, for Baking Brewing, Making Home-made Wines, Cordials, &c.

Mrs. Margaret Dods (Christian Isobel Johnstone), Edinburgh, 1826

Available free on Google

About A Twelfth Night Tale

Without dowries or the opportunity to meet eligible gentlemen, the five Barlow sisters stand little chance of making advantageous marriages. When Lucy, the eldest, attracts the attention of a wealthy viscount, she knows she should encourage his attentions, since marriage to a peer will be advantageous to all. The man of her dreams was Andrew Livingston, her best friend’s brother. But he’s always treated her like a child, and now he’s betrothed to another. Perhaps the time has come to accept reality… and Lord Bexley.

Andrew returned from the Peninsular War with a lame arm and emotional scars. Surprisingly, it’s his sister’s friend, “little Lucy”—now a strikingly lovely young woman—who shows him the way out of his melancholy. But with an eligible viscount courting her, Andrew will need a little Christmas magic to win her for himself.

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2 thoughts on “Mrs. Barlow’s Tasteful Advisements to Young Matrons and Overwrought Mothers of Daughters: Broths, Soups, and Gravies

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