This is a pleasure in pocket-size. A book on ices, but from an age when such things were sheer luxury, a holiday treat, and seldom found at home. The Book of Ices by Mrs. Agnes Marshall is a classic.
Mrs. Marshall (1855-1905) was a Victorian lady and one of the most celebrated cooks and writers of her day; she had her own cooking school and penned several books. They are considered to be some of the finest cookbooks of those times, especially those on ices, for which Mrs. Marshall had a considerable reputation. She even patented an ice-cream machine which could freeze in five minutes, and that was revolutionary! Remember that in the UK it was well into the 1960s before most homes even boasted a regular fridge.
Mrs. Marshall has been credited, by some, with the invention of the edible ice-cream cone, mentioned in her 1888 cookery book. This might not seem a significant fact, but it did change the mode of sale for ice cream at that time. Before the edible cone, ice cream had been served in glass ‘licks’. Yes, the unsanitary clue is in the name. Perhaps she would have become more celebrated, but she met with a riding accident in her late 40s.
An exhibition entitled ‘SCOOP
There is an exhibition entitled ‘SCOOP: The Wonderful World of Ice Cream’ which will run from 3rd July to September at Gasholders London in Kings Cross. This will be the world’s first ever exhibition exploring the history, science, art and mythologies of ice-cream, and will also showcase the life and work of this unsung heroine of the frozen dessert. To coincide with the exhibition Grub Street has published this facsimile paperback edition of Mrs Marshall’s most popular work, The Book of Ices.
This little volume, first published in 1885, contains recipes for both savoury and sweet preparations, which would likely have formed stunning Victorian dinner-party centrepieces if one was lucky enough to have an ice cave on one’s country estate. In truth, the cave referred to in this book was a box filled with a mix of salt and ice and was invented by Mrs. Marshall. The back of the book contains some delightful sketches of that, along with elaborate ice cream moulds and original advertisements for 19th century prepared foods.
The Book of Ices by Mrs. Agnes Marshall will be appreciated by any modern home cook or chef, who will find plenty of inspiration from these recipes. Any food historian will leaf through these pages with glee. It’s a charming little book. Granted, one might not want to present all of these suggested dishes to loved ones, but lots could be adapted for the contemporary table.
The Book of Ices – paperback – facsimile
Author: Agnes Marshall
Published by: Grub Street Publishing