Isabella vs. Martha, part deux: Fine Dining


In the house…

beeton stewart3

Last Tuesday, we left our dear domestic goddesses – Isabella Beeton, 19th century author of the wildly popular Book of Household Management, and Martha Stewart, creator of every other commercial household venture – intensely debating the fine points of fine dining.  To read their last head-to-head, click here.

Now I’ll continue with my interview (I’m going to take a firmer hand this time):

KBO: So, ladies, thanks for joining us once again to give our readers your tips on fine dining.  But first, some ground rules.  I’ve learned my lesson from last time: no descriptions of how to slaughter an ox, and no complaints about black-and-white vs. color.

IB: But that’s not fair – she’s wearing a blue blouse, and you can’t even tell what colour I have on.

KBO: Find me a color picture, and I’ll put it up.

IB: *silence*

MS: Was there even color in the 19th century?

IB: What an absurd question!  And it’s colour, dear, not color.

MS: Sounds the same to me.  You British don’t know how to spell anything properly. Like gaol, for instance.

KBO: I think we’re getting a bit off-topic here.  As I said last time, readers have better things to do than to listen to you two sniping at each other.  Like getting a tooth drilled.  Let’s get back to fine dining.

KBO: Okay, earlier we talked about table decorations.  How about food?

IB: It’s all in my book:

KBO: Hmm.  If we’re going by that rule in my house, that leaves out everything but Easy Mac and Cheerios.  Martha, you’re both the cook and hostess for your dinner parties.  What would you recommend?

MS and IB: What’s Easy Mac ?

KBO: Well, it’s sort of like pasta…

MS: Never mind; I don’t want to know.  You can do better.  With all of our modern conveniences, we 21st century women can do it all!

Image by Michael Bennett, via wikimedia. Not really Martha's.
Image by Michael Bennett, via wikimedia. Not really Martha’s.

KBO: …but, Easy Mac is a modern convenience…

MS: You know what I mean.  Now, here’s something you can cook:

KBO: Looks yummy.

MS: Roasting chicken atop a layer of shallots infuses the meat with their flavor and the shallots carmelize as they cook. Baby new potatoes and fresh broccoli from one’s summer garden are lightly steamed, and a demi-glace is drizzled on top for an artful presentation.

KBO: If I could serve it with a side of your verbs and adjectives, I might just be able to pull it off.  I suspect, though, that my house would be “infused” with the smell of onions and burnt chicken instead.

MS: Well, we only have so much to work with, don’t we?



IB: Poultry is an excellent suggestion, Martha.  Ooh, wait!  I have a colour picture of my poultry dish and other meat suggestions:

KBO: Mrs. B, how could you?  You killed Thumper. My guests would run screaming from that.  We don’t serve meat dishes with head and feet still attached anymore, unless it’s a luau.

IB: Who’s Thumper?

KBO: *sigh* Well, ladies, thanks for coming.  I know I’ve learned a lot today.  Good luck with your future endeavors.

MS: Can I go back to my real life now?

IB: That’s a little hard for me to do, dear – remember?  I’m dead.

KBO: Oh, yes, how silly of me.


So, as we part ways with Isabella and Martha, why not share your dinner party successes and failures, and perhaps your thoughts on how recognizable our meat should be when we serve it.  I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,


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13 thoughts on “Isabella vs. Martha, part deux: Fine Dining”

  1. Julie GloverJulie Glover

    I have thoroughly enjoyed these conversations. Perhaps, however, Miss Manners should have made an appearance to advise on how MS and IB should be more courteous to one another.

    Anyway, I’m of the EasyMac family. And I just love the pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store; looks just as good as IB’s and Martha’s to me. 🙂

  2. August McLaughlinAugust McLaughlin

    I have to say, I’m a wimp when it comes to cooking poultry, particularly since I married into having a pet bird. Anything with wings, legs or god forbid, a head, makes me run for the vegetables. Or take out. 😉

    Great post and series!

  3. Donna NewtonDonna Newton

    LOL. Love this!

    What a brilliant interview, Kathy.

  4. Renee A. Schuls-JacobsonRenee A. Schuls-Jacobson

    I love this clever little repartee, too. I love that quote you found: “Choose your dinner according to your cook.” I actually happen to be a very good cook.


    I don’t like to feel obligated to do it every night.


    I’m on as head chef 4 nights a week, hubby cooks once a week and we generally go out or order in once a week. And then there’s pizza night. Works for me.

  5. Gloria RichardGloria Richard

    I DO love this interview, Kathy. What a hoot of an idea. I’m with Julie on the Miss Manners intervention. Who might you put her up against?

    I almost typed “we.”

    NOTE TO JULIE AND KATHY: Do not trust Gloria. She is an idea kleptomaniac. Pick the first five letters or last five letters of that word. One applies.

    No worries. Now that I’ve confessed on a public forum, I will have to restrain myself.

    GREAT mini-series, K.B.

  6. Natalie HartfordNatalie Hartford

    OMG hysterical!! I love these posts Kathy – fantastic. Hubby was wondering what the heck I was giggling at. The chicken dish looked and sounded ahhmazing but I’d likely end up with the same results as you of onion and burnt chicken. LOL!! I’ve already shared my dinner party failures. My successes – I leave the heavy lifting to hubby and take as much credit as possible (until he shuts me down). LOL!!!!

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