Katharina Pratobevera Anonymous, 1846

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The Middle-class Woman Cooks

Katharina Pratobevera is the author of the popular cookbook Die Süddeutsche Küche (The Southern German Cuisine) or Die große Prato (The Big Prato), which was published in 80 editions until 1957 and translated into 16 languages. The author collected recipes and, along with cooking instructions, she also gave advice on homemaking and the manners of middle-class housewives. That she has been one of the best-known women from Graz up to the present day, has on the one hand to do with her bourgeois origins, and on the other, with the great popularity cookbooks enjoy.

Oil on cardboard
frame: 32 × 27,5 cm
Lender: Collection of the City of Graz
Collection of the City of Graz / Photo: Edin Prnjavorac

Katharina Prato

Katharina Polt (1818–1897), married Pratobevera, Edle von Scheiger in second marriage, was a self-determined woman of the 19th century and at the same time firmly attached to the traditional bourgeois world of values. Her passion for collecting recipes culminated in her lifetime achievement Die Süddeutsche Küche (The Southern German Cuisine). This cookbook was written for the middle-class wife to help her with her bourgeois household chores. In addition to the extensive collection of festive and everyday recipes, it also contains sections on table culture, health and child care. “Die Prato”, as her readers called her, was involved in charitable work to improve the living conditions of women. She founded the associations Grazer Volksküche and Frauenheim and initiated a work school for girls and nurseries.

The Success of Die Süddeutsche Küche

Die Süddeutsche Küche by Katharina Pratobevera was first published by Verlag Leykam, Graz, in 1858 and had 348 pages. From the second edition it became the most successful product of Verlag Styria, Graz. With the editions, the book was constantly extended—in 1895, the 24th edition had already 712 pages. In 1897, “the Prato” received the gold medal of the annual cookery exhibition, a high distinction especially for a woman of that time. The cookbook was posthumously revised by her granddaughter Viktorine von Leitmaier and published in editions of over 1,000 pages. A total of around one million copies of Die Süddeutsche Küche and the editions Die große Prato and Die kleine Prato have been published. The book is still available today as an annotated new edition.

Cooking in Style

Die Süddeutsche Küche became a pioneering work of the cookbook genre. The deliberately clear language, phrases like “Take ...” and the specific illustrations as guidance were very innovative at that time. Katharina Prato, as she always called herself as an author, pursued the goal of practice-oriented comprehensive assistance for the middle-class wife. Another peculiarity is the strong territorial aspiration: it should not be, as was customary in the time, the cookbook of a city, but should represent the cuisine of Central Europe and beyond. There are classic dishes from Prato’s time such as steamed otters as well as very modern and simple recipes or modern preparation equipment such as the pressure cooker.