Agnes Marshall: From Scullery Maid to Victorian Celebrity Cook

Agnes Marshall: From Scullery Maid to Victorian Celebrity Cook

Mrs A. B. Marshall

Trailblazer, innovator, entrepreneur. Agnes Marshall was as famous in her day as Mrs Beeton, but she has largely been forgotten, aside from a few passing references to her role in improving ice cream-making. But Agnes's story and her significant achievements in the world of cookery deserve far greater recognition. Now David Smith has re-examined her contribution to food history, busting some myths about her origins along the way.

Starting out as a lowly scullery maid, Agnes worked her way up to be a cook in gentlemen's service. Then, with true entrepreneurial spirit, she and her husband, Alfred, opened a cookery school that became renowned across Britain and beyond. Spotting further business opportunities, Agnes was endorsed by royalty; became the author of four best-selling cookery books; invented numerous improvements to ice cream-making machinery; established and contributed to a weekly newspaper, The Table; and undertook lecture tours in the UK and overseas. According to Oscar Wilde, "Mrs. Marshall's brilliant lectures are, of course, well known."

All this Agnes did with grit, determination and extraordinary stamina, while also fulfilling her traditional role as a wife and mother. She is a fascinating example of Victorian social mobility: how hard work, business acumen and a bit of good luck could lead to a successful career and helped her and Alfred to climb the social ladder.

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The Sublime Art of Curry Making

Over the years, I have written many articles about the British love affair with curry. A while ago, I was invited to write an essay on the subject by the Canadian journal Victorian Review.

Victorian Review
picture from Wikimedia Commons

I was honoured to accept the invitation, and my essay was published last year by John Hopkins University Press in the latest edition of the journal. It is an academic journal and not generally available to the public, but the publishing agreement allows me to feature my essay here on The Curry House website.

The title of the essay is "The Sublime Art of Curry Making" which is a quote from Culinary Jottings for Madras, by Colonel Arthur Kenney-Herbert ("Wyvern") who is the subject of my book The Cooking Colonel of Madras.

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food history

My book on the life and times of Colonel Arthur Kenney-Herbert: The Cooking Colonel of Madras.

The Cooking Colonel of Madras

Arthur Kenney-Herbert was a cavalry officer who served in India during the British Raj. Using the pen name "Wyvern", he wrote Culinary Jottings for Madras in which he gives instructions to British memsahibs on how to give refined dinners, manage their servants and make Anglo-Indian curries.

His book was a great success, and made Wyvern famous in colonial India. When he retired to England at the rank of colonel, Wyvern built on his reputation as a culinary authority. He founded a cookery school, gave cooking demonstrations, and wrote books and articles for prestigious magazines.

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the cookbook

Quick Meals from The Curry House contains over 50 recipes for making Indian restaurant-style meals at home. Most of the recipes can be made from scratch in under one hour.

Quick Meals from The Curry House

The book has collections of recipes for House Specials, Curry House Favourites, Tandoori-style Dishes, Vegetable Bhajis, Rice, Breads and Relishes. The recipes make dishes that bridge the gap between restaurant meals and supermarket ready-meals.

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free recipes

Free recipes from my first cookery book featuring replicas of Indian restaurant dishes.

free recipes

Recipe features - our Summer Sizzler spicy barbecue recipes, recipes for my Thai Green Curry and Indonesian Rendang, and other spicy features.

Recipes from the Raj - recipes from my collection of Anglo-Indian cookery books dating from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Discover how the Brits liked their curries over 100 years ago.

Party sized recipes for 8 or more. Recipes designed for large numbers. Avoid the hassle and unpredictability of scaling-up recipes meant for 2 or 4 people.

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