The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs

Published: 2022. 1. First lines. 2. Cover: Simon & Schuster Published as Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen in the US 3. Cover of 1847 edition [Public Domain] via Wikimedia 4. Illustrations from Eliza Acton’s book. [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Background: Wallpaper [Public Domain] via Public Domain Pictures

This story is based on the real-life Eliza Acton who wrote the very successful and innovative “Modern Cookery” in the mid-19th Century. Annabel Abbs has imagined her life as she writes her cookery book over the course of ten years. She hires a seventeen-year-old helper, Ann Kirby, with whom she develops a friendship as she collaborates on testing recipes. 

“We’ve a busy day today, Ann!”

This is a very engaging read. I felt the same way as Glamadelaide who comments on the author’s “thoughtful historical information”. She has used the facts of Eliza Acton’s life to imagine a fascinating character. Her descriptions of food and cooking in the nineteenth century are a major part of the book, and are a joy to read.


“Take one capacious kitchen, I think to myself, add a brisk fire and ten well-lined copper pans, throw in five moulds, seven wooden spoons, a good set of steel blades, and one competent and devoted assistant. Strew over a variety of gravy strainers, dredgers, sieves, strainers, nippers, rolling pins, chopping boards and paste brushes…”

“I can feel Mother’s furious eyes upon me, but the tug of the kitchen is stronger: my new books, the fresh perch gleaming in the larder, the trugs of field mushrooms and damsons and pippin apples still with the dew upon them, the curly green parsley I shall fry until crisp…”

Author: Annabel Abbs

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