MRS. CHARLES DARWIN’S RECIPE BOOK (Revised and illustrated)
Marty Martindale

By Dusha Bateson and Weslie Janeway

Emma Darwin was the wife of the eminent nineteenth-century English naturalist, Charles  Darwin  who gave us natural selection based on his evidence that all species evolved from common ancestors. His epic work, On the Origin of the Species, followed.

When Mrs. Darwin’s husband was not aboard his work ship, the HMS Beagle, Mrs. Darwin saw to it he ate very well, so much so, she compiled a cookery notebook, sometimes referred to as her manuscript. It contained recipes with knowledgeable commentary, text and botanical drawings. Bateson and Janeway through the notes of Mrs. Darwin, describe the couple’s comfortable Victorian lifestyle. The recipe book contains fifty-five selections most appropriate for this period in time.

Recipes from the collection were not highly spiced and most  contained few ingredients. Some spicier accompaniments of the era were curry powder, mushroom ketchup, essence of anchovy, soy also Universal and Harvey’s sauces. Though the Darwins were somewhat younger than Thomas Jefferson, the recipe simplicity along with the muted favorings were themes from both. Pudding desserts were highly favored by each in a time before ice cream. However, Jefferson was in a position to do something about bringing ice cream into reality.

The authors have started each recipe with helpful, sometimes historical, headnotes. In the appendix, you will be able to find copies of some of Emma’s recipes as entered in her notebook.

Below is an overview of some of her recipes:


Simply Parmesan cheese, flour, butter, cayenne pepper and milk


Butter, flour, milk, grated cheese, eggs and a little dry mustard, also grated nutmeg


White bread, butter, anchovy paste, heavy cream, egg yolks and cayenne pepper Emma Darwin wrote:  “Chop some anchovy very fine; anchovy paste will do as well, spread it on buttered toast. Beat up the yolks of two eggs. Melt a little butter in good cream, thicken it with the yolks to the consistency of a good custard, and pour it over the toast which is cut in slices.”


Young, white turnips, butter, heavy cream and cayenne pepper


Apples, sugar, lemon peep, butter, flour, milk and eggs. The entry from Emma Darwin’s recipe notbook: From Emma’s  notebook:  “Peel the apples, take out the core, fill the holds with sugar and a little lemon peel chopped very fine. Put them into a dish in the oven and when nicely done, pour on them a nice batter not too thick. Bake in a steady oven for an hour.”


Medium grain rice, milk or cream, butter, sugar and eggs


Honey, brown sugar, butter, powdered ginger and flour


Heavy cream, lemon juice, sugar and brancy


Orange, sugar, sweet wine, orange extract and cream

Emma’s life spanned 88 years, and as was not uncommon in those days, her husband, Charles, was her cousin. Each were the grandchildren of Josiah Wedgewood, a famed pottery manufacturer. As to their married life, Bateson and Janeway found in Emma’s letters where Charles Darwin had written of Emma, she was  “as good as twice refined gold.”

Marty Martindale

About Marty Martindale

Foodsite Magazine and Marty aim to help the cooking-challenged avoid dependence on others due to lack of cooking knowhow. We concentrate on quick breakfasts, portable lunches and “good-4-u” night meals. With readily available web translation, the magazine explains separate foods, a little of their history, their nutrition, suggested “go-withs,” serving ideas and links to foodsites with recipes.

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