Margaretha Emerentia Nordström is believed to be the person who, under the pseudonym of Margaretha Nylander, authored one of the best-selling cookbooks of the nineteenth century.
Margaretha Nylander is believed to be the pseudonym of Margaretha Emerentia Nordström. If this is correct she was the daughter of Pehr Zethelius, a goldsmith, in his third marriage. His third wife was Catharina Emerentia Westrell. The family belonged to the well-established citizenry of Stockholm and remained such. One of her two older half-brothers carried on in their father’s footsteps by becoming an artistically-focused silversmith. Margaretha Nordström married Henrik Andersson Nordström, a book-printer, in 1799. It has not been established whether the couple had progeny.
A cookbook entitled Handbok wid den nu brukliga Finare Matlagningen; innehållande tillika Beskrifning på Confecteurer, Sylter och Glacer samt ett Bihang, att göra Soja, fransk Senap, Ättickor, Bär=winer, Bär=safter, att inlägga Anjovis m.m.; jemte några underrättelser om Slagt, Bryggd och Brödbakning was published in Stockholm in 1822. The author was noted as Margaretha Nylander and the book was printed by director Henrik Andersson Nordström. The book not only had an extensive title, it also contained numerous pages and was printed in numerous editions: the cookbook was released in a total of 16 editions right up until the early 1900s.
The foreword to the cookbook, “written by a woman”, introduces Margaretha Nylander. She had been the main housekeeper of a number of wealthy households across Sweden and had passed on her recipes and instructions to the author verbally. In addition, she had handed over her notes so they could be edited and published. However, no individual called Margaretha Nylander seems to have existed and thus it is believed that the recipes originated with Margaretha Emerentia Nordström herself. The foreword also mentions her predecessors in the field, namely Cajsa Warg and Carolina Weltzin. Although their respective cookbooks are lauded it is nevertheless pointed out that the art of cooking changes constantly, rendering the earlier works old-fashioned and in need of complementation.
To what degree, then, did Margaretha Nylander impact on the genre of cookbook writing? The book included recipes for a number of main courses that were typical for the time: how about fried porkchops or stewed calf’s head? In addition, the book also served as an aid to preparing everyday food such as minced lungs and black pudding. The fish dishes include several pike dishes: cooked whole pike, sliced pike and stuffed pike are just some of these.
Margaretha Nylander’s cookbook, just as her predecessors’ had been, was directed at young mistresses who lacked any formal education and for whom the instructions would be useful. The target audience included the better-off households, both metropolitan and rural: “The description of Confecturer och finare Sylter should generally be welcome in wealthier rural households whose distance from the nearest big town makes it harder to get supplies and whose households – in which Mademoiselle Nylander gained her knowledge – have always used the said preserves.”
It remains a mystery as to why Margaretha Emerentia Nordström opted to write her successful cookbook as a fictitious person and no further details about her life in general can be found.
When Margaretha Emerentia Nordström died in Stockholm in 1876 she was a widow. Her cookbook, meanwhile, continued to be released in new editions until 1902.