Hannah Glasse cookbook

Hannah Glasse: Here’s to the Women Who Wrote Cookbooks

For Women’s History Month I will introduce you to some women who were deeply influential in our country, starting with my friend* Hannah Glasse.  Not politicians, not scientists (well applied science, maybe), but definitely a unique variety of artists.  I am talking about early women cookbook authors.

Boswell wrote that Samuel Johnson said, “Although women can spin very well, they cannot make a good book of cookery.”

Forget Samuel Johnson. Each week this month, I will give you a little information about how one of these women helped her sisters in eighteenth and nineteenth century America.

For the family historian, these women cookbook authors provide an invaluable guide to how your ancestors in aprons lived and cooked. For the foodie, the books gives us clues to why we eat the way we do.

The Women and Their Books

  • 1774 – Hannah Glasse. The earliest cookbooks and household management books distributed in the colonies came from England. Men were the authors of many of these cookbooks. However, a woman wrote the most influential early cookbook in the colonies , The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse.
  • 1796 – Amelia Simmons. Simmons assembled the first known cookbook written by an American for an American audience, American Cookery.
  • 1824 – Mary Randolph. A pattern of including household management and efficiency along with “receipts” started with The Virginia House-Wife or Methodical Cook by Mary Randolph.
  • 1830- Annie Frost.  I have referred frequently here at Ancestors in Aprons to Godey’s Lady’s Book (Magazine) that included recipes and household hints. Frost wrote the cooking sections and the cookbook Godey’s Lady’s Book of Recipts published in 1870. Founded by Louis A. Godey in 1830 and edited by Sarah Josepha Hale until 1877, Godey’s Lady’s Book won a huge following for all those years. After Hale left and the magazine was sold, it expired just before the start of the new century.
  • 1861 – Isabella Beeton, whose book The Book of Household Management Comprising information for the Mistress, Housekeeper, Cook, Kitchen-Maid, Butler, Footman, Coachman, Valet, Upper and Under House-Maids, Lady’s-Maid, Maid-of-all-Work, Laundry-Maid, Nurse and Nurse-Maid, Monthly Wet and Sick Nurses, etc. etc.—also Sanitary, Medical, & Legal Memoranda: with a History of the Origin, Properties, and Uses of all Things Connected with Home Life and Comfort (pause to take a breath) was published in England.  Beeton could be called the Martha Stewart of her day.
  • 1866 – Miss Malinda Russell. It has taken a couple of centuries for historians to realize the important influence of African-American kitchen slaves on what we think of as American cooking. But the first cookbook by a former slave makes it clear.  Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Selection of Useful Precepts, self-published by Miss Malinda Russell, explains that the book “follows the plan of The Virginia Housewife.” I suspect if Mary Randolph had been totally honest, whe would have acknowledged that while the plan of her book belonged to her, most of the recipes came from slave cooks.

Hannah Glasse

Hannah Glasse (1708-1770) writes for the edification of British Victoria-era servants rather than the wives of American frontier farmers. Nevertheless, her practical advice contains wisdom for the ages. Her book The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy first appeared in 1747. Her husband, John Glasse, whom she had married in 1724, died the year her book was published. The same year, she started her seamstress business.

Apparently the business did not do well, because by 1754, sources believe she declared herself bankrupt . She auctioned off the rights to her popular book, and was declared out of bankruptcy in 1755. However, in 1757 she again was broke and serving time in debtors prison. Apparently she put her time in prison to good use, because when she got out, she published The Servants Directory. While The Art of Cookery continued to make money for others, her new book did not catch on. Her third book, The Complete Confectioner focusing on preserved fruit, wine and desserts appeared in 1760. Several editions appeared, but the final book never achieved the popularity The Art of Cookery. (Some sources say this was her first book rather than her third.)

During their twenty-three years of marriage,John and Hannah, who worked as servants, had 10   children, five of whom survived childhood.

*I think of Hannah Glasse as a close friend. Although she was born a mere 231 years before me, her writing style and general approach to life make her seem like a next door neighbor I might swap recipes with.

Hannah Glasse’s Cooking

If nothing else, I will always have a warm spot in my heart for her because of this one phrase:

“Most people spoil garden things by over boiling them. All things green should have a little crispness, for if they are overboil’d they neither have sweetness or beauty.”

Hannah Glasse had a rough life including a stint in debtor’s prison which resulted in her having to sell the rights to The Art of Cookery. In an age of Upstairs-Downstairs, Hannah Glasse was solidly downstairs. Not an educated upper class person like some of the successful women authors, Hannah had worked for years as a servant, and later started a dressmaking shop of her own. She says in her introduction (which seems to be written more for the lady of the house who might buy the book for her servants) that she makes things simple so the information can be understood by the “lower sort.”  For instance, she says, the reader might not understand if she said to use lardoons, so she says bacon.

Economy and efficiency guide her recipes and other household advice.  What’s the point in using an expensive ingredient if a cheaper one will do the job?

“I have known of a cook who used 6 pounds of butter to fry 12 eggs, when everybody knows who understands cooking, that half a pound is enough.”
Hannah Glasse cookbook

Hannah Glasse 1770 edition frontspiece

“As marketing must be the first branch of cookery, I shall begin with that table first.”

You must have a strong stomach to follow her instructions on checking whether meat is fresh.  Thank goodness for refrigeration!  Nowadays we feel virtuous if we buy food in season. However our great-great grandmothers were restricted not only in season for vegetables and fruits, but in buying poultry (for instance).

I mentioned earlier Glasse’s recipe for curried chicken–an early use of the Indian style of cooking.

While some of the recipes may sound arcane, her sauces for boiled turkey sound delicious. For instance–oyster sauce and celery sauce.

Oyster Sauce

Take a pint of oysters and set them off, strain the liquor from them, put them in cold water, and wash and beard them, put them into your liquor in a stew pan with a blade of mace, and some butter rolled in flour and a quarter of a lemon; boil them up, then put in half a pint of cream, & boil it together gently, take the lemon and mace out, squeeze the juice of the lemon in the sauce, then serve it in your boat or basin.

Celery Sauce

Take the white part of celery, cut it abouto one inch long; boil it in some water til it is tender, then take a half pint of veal broth, a blade of mace, and thicken it with a little flour and butter, put in half a pint of cream, boil them up gently together, put in your celery and boil it up, then pour it in your  boat.

On the other hand, what might have seemed simple to the Victorian era cook–a servant preparing a meal for entertaining a dozen or more people–definitely does not sound simple to us.  “Beat for two hours together”??  Check out this post with a recipe for Seed Cake.

Your Own Copy of The Art of Cookery

There are many ways you can acquire Hannah Glasse’s delightful cookbook and most of them are totally free.  Be aware that the various version will be different, depending on who was editing (and amending) the original.  If you want a real  1747 version just go to ABE Books (and be thankful no one can send you to debtor’s prison).

YouTube Find an audio version of the 1748 version, with editor’s notes laying out the somewhat arrogant sounding corrections and additions made by the editor.

Google Books — Just a few of the many editions available in digital form. All of these come after Hannah Glasse sold her rights to the book.

1765 edition

1780 edition

1791, 20th edition

1805 edition  First edition published in America

1830 edition

Print and Digital Editions

If you prefer not to shell out thousands for that original first edition, you can find print (reproduction)  copies and various editions for your digital reader at Amazon.com

The American Edition 1805

The Hannah Glasse book continued racking up sales in many, many editions, both during her lifetime and after her death.  Editions popped up in countries around the world for nearly one hundred years after the original publication in 1747. The American printed version that I have, published in 1805, contains a few recipes native to America–Indian pudding, pumpkin pie, cranberry tarts and maple syrup.

If your ancestors owned Cookery, they likely would own the 1805 edition printed in America. Although I have read that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and Ben Franklin all owned editions much earlier.

I’m happy to have introduced you to Hannah Glasse, who I am convinced influenced many of my female ancestors, even though very few of them hired servants.

Where’s The Will? A Probate Records Search

This week’s challenge for the 52 Ancestors project, “Where There’s a Will“, sounds familiar–drawing us into the fascinating world of probate records. However, at the moment I have to turn that around to “Where’s The Will?” because I am stymied in finding the will of Adam Stahler.

I have enjoyed getting acquainted with ancestors and their families through their probate records in the past. My great-great-grandmother’s first husband died young without a will, but the inventory of goods plainly told me that he was a merchant.   In researching my husband’s ancestors, I found wills for three successive generations in the Manbeck family. From those, and their attached inventories, I learned names of children, what a great-great-great-great grandmother had in her kitchen, what you need to grow flax, and how long it took for German immigrants to switch to the English langauge.

Abraham Brink Will

Abraham Brink the elder Will.

You can read about those ancestors and what I learned from probate records here:

But those were easy.  All those wills and associated papers from probate records were found on line. Hard to read the hand writing sometimes–but at any rate there they were.  And the recorder had kindly written an English transcription of the wills in German, so I didn’t even need a translator.

Asahel Platt Inventory

One of several pages of inventory of belongings of Asahel Platt.

And then there was Adam Stahler.  Ancestry.com coughs up an index entry from the probate records of Northampton County, Pennsylvania (his residence), for Stahler, Adam with John Stahler as administrator, filed in 1804. The index even presents a file number #2284.

Usually, when Ancestry does not give me anything but the index information, I can find the actual document at Family Search.org. Not this time.  I will spare you the gory details, but after two days of eye strain, I still did not have Adam Stahler’s will.

Next step, ask on Facebook at “Genealogy? Just Ask”.

Next step, check Family Search. Someone on the FB group had directed me on how to search more effectively on Family Search.  I  also read a very comprehensive guide to Family Search searching written by Cathy Meder-Dempsey.  Maybe I’m just a bad student, but that didn’t get me what I was looking for either.

Two possibilities, the will never was photographed by Family Search AND/OR it has not been digitized OR the second possibility–it no longer exists. That is just too sad to contemplate, so I am delaying accepting defeat.

Next step, contact the Probate office in Northampton County, Pennsylvania.

So today I sent off an e-mail.  Fingers crossed. And of course I will keep you posted.

Meanwhile, if you can keep yourself amused b looking at the variety of wills I DID find.

Chocolate Swirl Bars–A Slice of my Life

Most kids love to cook. Once when I was a Cub Scout den mother, I asked the boys whether they would rather do a science experiment or cook something–cooking won by a landslide.  This recipe for Chocolate Swirl Bars meets the kid-friendly test.  The measurements allow you to work a bit on math if you want.  Relatively few ingredients means it is easy to mix up.  And best of all, they LOVE the action of swirling the chocolate into the peanut butter dough.

chocolate swirl bar

Bar cookies with peanut butter and chocolate chips.

Note: If you’re making chocolate swirl bars with grandchildren or a group of kids, be sure to check for peanut allergies before you start. Unfortunately, one of my grandsons and one of my great-grandsons would be unable to eat these.

I know they are popular with kids, because my youngest son started making them when he was in eighth grade.  He liked making the chocolate swirl bars, and turned it into a business.  We discussed the cost of the ingredients, which he had to figure out and then return to me from his earnings.

The inspiration for starting a business could have come from Junior Achievement–a school program that helped kids in high school start their own business.  His older son had quite a company going, supervising a group of kids who made macrame’ plant hangers back when macrame’ was all the rage.

At the time, my husband also acted as an advisor for a J.A. group at another high school.  I still have a spatter guard for a skillet and a hamburger press, both made by teens, as reminders of those projects.

But COOKIES! A much better business, in my humble opinion.

My son baked a batch and took small samples of the cookies door to door in our neighborhood, fed them to the neighbors and took orders for a dozen cookies.  I don’t know how long before his interest flagged, but it may very well have been the beginning of a lasting talent in salesmanship.

Whether you cook them yourself, or find some kids to do the baking, you’ll find that the only problem with these chocolate swirl bars is waiting until they are cool enough to come out of the pan. The smell is heavenly. The taste likewise. Can you eat just one?

Other kid-friendly cookie recipes:

Peanut butter cookies

Pumpkin Cookies

Rhema’s Raisin Bars

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Swirl Cookies

Serves 24
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 40 minutes
Total time 1 hour
Allergy Egg, Peanuts, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Easy to make Peanut Butter- Chocolate Chip Swirl Bars look great and taste as good as they look.


  • 1/2 cup Peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup butter (softened)
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar (tightly packed)
  • 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10-12 oz chocolate chips


1. Beat well the first four ingredients.
2. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
3. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in separate bowl, then beat into the peanut butter mixture.
4. Spread into greased 9" x 13" pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top, as evenly as possible.
5. Bake 5 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven, and draw knife through batter to make marbled effect with chocolate.
6. Return to oven and bake for 30-40 minutes in preheated 350 degree oven, until brown on edges, and almost solid in center. (Will continue to firm up out of oven.)
7. Cool on wire rack for ten minutes, then cut in squares. Put cookies on a cooling rack until completely cool. Freeze or store in airtight container.


You can use either semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips and either smooth or crunchy peanut butter in these delicious cookies.  Kids love to make them and get creative with the marbleing.