Mrs Dalgairns's Kitchen

Rediscovering "The Practice of Cookery"

A nineteenth-century cookbook fusing elements of Acadian, Indian, Mi'kmaq, and Scottish cuisine offers readers a taste of the past, along with exciting recipes newly adapted for the modern kitchen.


When The Practice of Cookery first appeared in Edinburgh and London editions in 1829, reviewers hailed it as one of the best cookbooks available. The book was unique not only in being wholly original, but also for its broad culinary influences, incorporating recipes from British North America, the United States, England, Scotland, France, and India.

Catherine Emily Callbeck Dalgairns was born in 1788. Though her contemporaries understood her to be a Scottish author, she lived her first twenty-two years in Prince Edward Island. Charlottetown was home for much longer than the twelve years she spent in London or her mere six years' residency in Dundee, Scotland, by the time of the cookbook’s first appearance. In Mrs Dalgairns's Kitchen, Mary Williamson reclaims Dalgairns and her book's Canadian roots. During her youth, the popular cookbook author would have had experience of Acadian, Mi'kmaq, and Scottish Highlands foods and ways of cooking. Her mother had come from Boston, inspiring the cookbook's several American recipes; Dalgairns's brothers-in-law lived in India, reflected in the chapter devoted to curry recipes. Williamson consults the publisher's surviving archives to offer insights into the world of early nineteenth-century publishing, while Elizabeth Baird updates Dalgairns's recipes for the modern kitchen.

Both an enticing history of the seminal cookbook and a practical guide for readers and cooks today, Mrs Dalgairns's Kitchen offers an intimate look at the tastes and smells of an early nineteenth-century kitchen.


"Williamson has succeeded in telling an engaging story about Dalgairns's life and the life of her remarkable cookbook. She gives readers an illuminating 'behind-the-scenes' glimpse of how this cookbook came to be and how it evolved over time with revisions and subsequent editions both in Britain and North America. Mrs Dalgairns's Kitchen provides a lively, informative, and layered culinary context, and readers will appreciate the care Williamson has taken in tracing everything from changes in kitchen utensils and cookware to cooking terminology. " Shelley Boyd, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and co-editor of Canadian Culinary Imaginations

"Before Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management there was Mrs Dalgairns's The Practice of Cookery. Williamson provides a new context for understanding a popular cookbook and culinary author of the early nineteenth century and re-establishes Dalgairns's text in the firmament of English-language culinary writing and publishing. " Elizabeth Driver, author of Culinary Landmarks: A Bibliography of Canadian Cookbooks, 1825–1949

“[Mrs Dalgairns’s Kitchen] highlights an overlooked classic that should appeal to the general reader and so should the selection from the book of original recipes modified by Elizabeth Baird for twenty-first-century cooks. The attraction of attention to this under-appreciated author is most welcome.” Petits Propos Culinaires

“Thanks to Mary Williamson, those who enjoy both scholarly and hands-on experiences in culinary history will relish this treasury and its Canadian connection.” Culinary Historians of Canada newsletter