For the more experienced housewife and cook, The Art of Cooking, published in 1880, examines cookery as both a science and an art. Author Matilda Lees Dods was inspired to write this cookbook after obtaining a first-class diploma from the South Kensington School of Cookery. Her purposeful education spurred a desire to help other women seeking to master the fine art of cooking. Many recipes contain sizable quantities of ingredients and portions for large groups, reflecting the rise in fashionable dinner parties amongst the middle and upper classes. Many dishes showcase the trendiness of French cuisine at the time. Each recipe is integrated with helpful notes on technique or the use of alternative ingredients.
This new style of cookbook became a prominent fixture in the kitchens of middle- and upper-class housewives who, previously, had relied on servants to perform kitchen duties. The introduction of new technological gadgets in the Canadian home, such as gas stoves and ice boxes, meant housekeeping required less time and effort than in the past. In many households, full-time help was no longer needed. Many women also began to take great pride in their cookery, especially the opportunity to present to their dinner guests beautiful, tasty, and complicated dishes. The “perfect” hostess was often known for her signature dish and very careful attention to detail.
Dods, Matilda Lees. The Art of Cooking A Series of Practical Lessons. Toronto: Hart & Rawlinson 1880. Gift of Una Abrahamson. Archival & Special Collections, University of Guelph Library