from Eliza Acton and Friends
by Lynn Kerrigan
"Give me the loneliest spot on earth,
Where not a living step shall come;
And not a form of human birth
Shall break the quiet of my home."
Eliza Acton (1799—1859), a frustrated and unsuccessful poet eventually gained fame as a cookbook author. She was an unconventional, unmarried social rebel, believing that processed foods, especially store-bought bread, contributed to Britain's poverty and malnutrition. Perhaps this is one of the reasons she wrote "The English Bread Book" (1857). But it is Acton's "Modern Cookery for Private Families" (1845) that is most famous. It not only recorded the recipe for Mulligatawny Soup, it's said to be the first "basic" cookbook by a housewife for her peers—rather than by a culinary professional. Mulligatawny, a curried soup brought back from India by British colonists, is the Anglicized name of two words for "pepper water," molegoo (pepper) and tunee (water).
The real Mulligatawny is a traditional curry-flavored pea and lentil peasant dish. Indian restaurants today serve it as a vegetarian soup and appetizer. The Anglicized version adds chicken so it's more like a stew and suitable as a meal in itself. Originally the soup was enriched with coconut milk and embellished with almonds and apples. It can also contain rice, eggs, cream, and other meats besides chicken.
Top Secret Recipes' version of the Indian Mulligatawny Soup sold by Al Yeganeh,
Jerry Seinfeld's Soup Nazi, is posted on the Top Secret Recipe web page.
For more history about the Brits' culinary adventures in India, read:
"The Raj at Table: A Culinary History of the British in India" by David Burton.
Current Culinary Sleuth Archive
This page created February 2000
Copyright © 1998-2001, Lynn Kerrigan. No portion of this article may be reproduced for publication without express, written permission of the author.
This page modified February 2007