Eliza Acton: Modern Cookery Writer of Britain

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      Eliza Acton (1799 - 1859) Considered Britain's first modern cookery writer because of the exactness of her recipes, which remain eminently practical today. She was both educator and food reformer, ahead of her time in advocating healthy eating and simple cooking. Her work remained in print until 1918 when ousted by that of Mrs. Isabella Beeton. Eliza grew up in Ipswich in East Anglia where her father was a partner in a brewery and wine business. Aged 18, Eliza and a friend founded a boarding school in Suffolk, offering 'a course of education combining elegance and utility with economy'. She left after four years, though she may have begun writing poetry at this time for some was published during the 1820s. I'll health led to her living in France where she developed a life-long admiration for French cooking. It's thought she became engaged to a French officer whose infidelity caused her to return home, possibly with an illegitimate daughter who was brought up by her sister.

      During the 1830s Eliza approached her publisher with 'further fugitive verses' but Mr. Longman suggested she write a cookery book instead. Modern Cookery, in all its Branches(1845) was the result. In 1855 an expanded edition appeared, Modern Cookery for Private Families, described by Elizabeth David as 'the greatest cookery book in our language'; in its preface, the author complains of being much plagiarized. Eliza's only other work, The English Bread Book (1857), was published just two years before her death in London due to premature old age.

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