The English Art of Cookery
Briggs gave the book the title The English Art of Cookery according to the present practice; being a complete guide to all housekeepers on a plan entirely new. In his preface, dated Oct. 1, 1788, he explains that his intended audience is (commanded) servants rather than aristocrats: "I presume to offer the following Sheets to the Public, in hopes that they will find the Directions and Receipts more intelligible than in most Books of the Kind. I have bestowed every Pains to render them easily practicable, and adapted to the Capacities of those who may be ordered to use them." The historian Gilly Lehmann comments that in this preface, Briggs was stressing "his simple style in terms reminiscent of Hannah Glasse". The book was expensive, its price of 7 shillings placing it at "the upper end of the market."
The book contains a high proportion of French recipes for its period, Elizabeth Raffald's The Experienced English Housekeeper in comparison having far fewer. French or partly French titles include "Poulet a la Braize", "Soup a la Reine" and "Rump of Beef a la Doube". Despite these elegant foreign dishes, Briggs felt able to include homely English foods such as toad in a hole, though it did include "beaten ginger, and a little grated nutmeg", and used a "veiney piece of beef" rather than sausages.
The book contains several examples of Anglo-Indian influence. In the Pickling chapter, there are "Mock Ginger", "Melon Mangoes", and "Elder Shoots in Imitation of Bamboo". Briggs gives recipes for curries of veal and of chicken, calling for the use of "curric powder".
The book is strictly organised into 38 chapters with clearly distinct themes. Many of the chapters have an introductory paragraph stating "Proper rules to be observed in" its theme.
The recipes are given as names of dishes, such as "Oyster Sauce for Fish", with a paragraph of instructions. There are no lists of ingredients. Quantities are given where needed, in whatever measure is convenient, as "a pint of large oysters", "half a pound of butter", "a quarter of a lemon", or "a spoonful of anchovy liquor". Cooking instructions rely on the observation of the cook, as "boil it up gently till the butter is melted, and the sauce thick and smooth".
Page numbers apply to the first edition.
- 1. Marketing 1
- 2. Soups 28
- 3. Fish 63
- 4. Sauces 122
- 5. Boiling 137
- 6. Roasting 149
- 7. Baking 174
- 8. Broiling 179
- 9. Frying 185
- 10. Stews and Hashes 192
- 11. Made Dishes 215
- 12. Ragous 300
- 13. Fricasees 307
- 14. Roots and Vegetables 315
- 15. Aumlets and Eggs 345, Cheese 354
- 16. Puddings 357
- 17. Pies 396, Pettit Patties 430, Tarts, Tartlets, and Puffs 434
- 18. Pancakes and Fritters 440
- 19. Cheesecakes and Custards 449
- 20. Blancmange, Creams, and Flummery 455
- 21. Jellies and Syllabubs 468
- 22. Directions for those that attend the Sick 479
- 23. Directions for Seafaring Men 489
- 24. Preserving 499
- 25. Syrups and Conserves 514
- 26. Drying and Candying 516
- 27. Cakes 525
- 28. Hogs Puddings, Sausages, &c. 541
- 29. Potting 546, Little Cold Dishes 557
- 30. Carving 559
- 31. Collaring 561
- 32. Salting and Sousing 566
- 33. Pickling 573
- 34. To Keep Garden Vegetables and Fruits 597, A Catalogue of Fish, Game, Poultry, Fruit, and Garden Vegetables, in Season every Month in the Year 602
- 35. Wines 611
- 36. Cordial Waters 621
- 37. Brewing 631
- 38. Baking 652
The book was illustrated with 12 copper-plate engravings of Bills of Fare for the 12 months of the year, each one being a table layout of oval or octagonal dishes. These plates preceded the first chapter.
Many species of bird were eaten in eighteenth century England; Briggs describes how to roast "Ruffs and Reeves" from Lincolnshire and the Isle of Ely; Ortolan buntings; larks; plovers; wheatears from the South Downs, as well as wild ducks, woodcocks and snipes.
The book appeared in the following editions.
- 1788 1st Ed. London: G.G.J. and J. Robinson
- 1790? Cork: J. Connor
- 1791 2nd Ed. London: G.G.J. and J. Robinson
- 1791 Dublin: P. Byrne
- 1792 Philadelphia: W. Spotswood, R. Campbell, and B. Johnson as The New Art of Cookery
- 1794 3rd Ed. London: G.G.J. and J. Robinson
- 1798 Dublin: P. Byrne
- 1798 2nd American Ed. Boston: W. Spotswood
- 1806 Dublin:
The Monthly Review of 1789 "confessed that there may be, and actually are, subjects, both above and below our reach; and we now acknowledge that cookery is one of them." It agreed with the proverb that the proof of the pudding was in the eating, but "none of the corps [of reviewers] will venture to say how the pudding should be made."
The Critical Review, or Annals of Literature of 1790 more boldly asserted that the book "appears to be a work of great merit", but, stating that cooks were "a numerous body, and we are not sufficient adepts to decide on their different pretensions", confined itself to quoting Briggs's credentials from the title page, and confirming that he "is now at the Temple Coffee-house, where we have tasted, with pleasure, several excellent dishes of his composition."
- Lehmann, Gilly (2003). The British Housewife. Totnes: Prospect Books. p. 149.
- Lehmann, Gilly (2003). The British Housewife. Totnes: Prospect Books. p. 245.
- Lehmann, Gilly (2003). The British Housewife. Totnes: Prospect Books. p. 262.
- Briggs, page 262.
- Briggs, pages 588–589.
- Lehmann, Gilly (2003). The British Housewife. Totnes: Prospect Books. p. 256.
- Briggs, pages 126–127.
- Briggs, pages 168–171.
- Briggs, pages 595–596.
- Briggs, page 397.
- Briggs, Richard. "The English Art of Cookery". WorldCat. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
- Lucraft, Fiona. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography "Briggs, Richard".
- The Monthly Review. R. Griffiths. 1789. p. 462.
- The critical review, or annals of literature. 1790. p. 120.