Ovine Cuisine

Extract from Isabella Beeton’s Book of Household Management c~1861

Technology-based societies increasingly view food as merely output of factory processes, not of farming.

This series of industrial-strength mutton recipes read like a manual for a food processing plant, or a shearer’s kitchen preparing for the onslaught of tired, starving, sweaty blokes after a day in the shed.

They are a stark reminder of the roots of culinary effort when cooking was no boutique affair but a survival skill.

Singed Sheep’s Head

The village of Dudingston, which stands within a mile of Edinburgh town, was formerly celebrated for an ancient and homely Scottish dish. In the summer months, many opulent citizens used to resort to this place to solace themselves over singed sheep’s heads, boiled or baked.

The sheep, fed upon the neighbouring hills, were slaughtered at this village and though the carcasses were sent to town the heads were left to be consumed. We are not aware whether the custom of eating sheep’s heads at Dudingston is still kept up by the good folks of Edinburgh.

Recipes to anticipate

  • How to Chop up Sheep – Part1 – It’s all in the cutting, and don’t be cut if your cutlets don’t make the cut
  • How to Chop up Sheep – Part2 – Can become quite addictive. Practice your knife work while watching Silence of the Lambs
  • Broil it, Boil it – just don’t spoil it. Mmmm … Breast of mutton, bread crumbs, 2 tablespoonfuls of minced savoury herbs (put a large proportion of parsley), pepper and salt to taste. Plus other recipes.
  • Cold Meat Cookery – "cookery" n : the act of preparing something (as food) by the application of heat; "people are needed who have experience in cookery"
  • Mutton Schmutton – don’t be a glutton. How many ways can you skin and eat an ovine?
  • Lambchops Lives – Recipes guaranteed to bring tears to Shari Lewis’ eyes
  • Not Real Cooking, Wog stuff – A bit too fancy for yer average shearer
  • How to Gross-out even a Sheep – Things you’d LOVE to stick in front of brat face while she/he is giving the XBox a hammering

Overwhelming gratitude to the lady who inspired, copied, recycled, and indeed created many of these recipes: Mrs Beeton, aka Isabella Beeton, and her landmark tome written for Man’s barefoot and pregnant servant,"The Book of Household Management."

And a warning to you career women, you lazy Springer-addicted women of leisure, echoing through the decades from a century and a half ago:

What moved me, in the first instance, to attempt a work like this, was the discomfort and suffering which I had seen brought upon men and women by household mismanagement.

I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways. Men are now so well served out of doors – at their clubs, well-ordered taverns, and dining-houses – that in order to compete with the attractions of these places, a mistress must be thoroughly acquainted with the theory and practice of cookery, as well as be perfectly conversant with all the other arts of making and keeping a comfortable home.
Isabella Beeton, 1861
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