A Flight of Fancy: Lee-on-Solent’s Swordfish Hotel

Swordfish hotelAlas, good eating places, whether pubs, hotels or restaurants, often come to sticky ends. They close down and when they re-open are often a shadow of their former selves. They frequently burn down, either deliberately to claim insurance, or by accident when a deep fat fryer goes up in flames.

Destruction by fire was the fate of one of the more unusual eating places in the 1961 Good Food Guide. The Swordfish Hotel, on Crofton Cliffs in Lee – on- Solent was a much-loved attraction on the Hampshire coast, between Gosport and Southampton. It boasted a superb view of the Solent, had its own beach, and in 1961 was serving weird starters, such as fried silk worms and roasted caterpillars. More significantly, its chef was trained, in the words of Raymond Postgate ‘at that nursery of good cooks, the Westminster Technical College ’. Continue reading

The Authors’ Good Food Guide for 1961 – 1962

Nigel-Lawson-in-1985-008Some of the celebs who ‘approved’ restaurants and inns in The Good Food Guide of 1961 – 62 were poets, journalists, novelists and literary translators. Two of them—Keidrych Rhys (1915 – 87), the Welsh poet and veteran editor of the literary magazine Wales, and Michael Meyer, the prize-winning translator and biographer of Ibsen and Strindberg, and a friend of Raymond Postgate—feature prominently in the London section of the Guide.

Along with drama and good conversation , the greatest passion of Meyer (1921 – 2000), according to a friend, was food. He writes about his passion for it in his autobiography, Not Prince Hamlet (1985), and doubtless he was instrumental in recommending good eating places to his friend Raymond Postgate. Certainly, he is one of the more frequent ‘approvers‘ to appear in the Guide and at one point was expected to succeed as its editor. Eclectic in his tastes and apparently prepared to trawl London for good places to eat, one of his favourite restaurants was Fiddlers Three in Beauchamp Place, Kensington, very close to the trendy Parkes ( see earlier Jot). Appropriately for such a fan of European culture, the food seems to have had a pronounced East European flavour; dishes included ‘ goulash, boiled silverside and dumplings, whole small pigeon, stuffed baby marrows, prune and orange jelly, home-made soups, kedgeree with cheese sauce, and home-made cream cheese’. Translation work often pays well, which explains why Meyer was also able to afford Chelsea’s La Carafe, a branch of the famous fish restaurant Wheeler’s, where lobster Cardinal ( 15/-) and 32 varieties of sole were on the menu. Continue reading

Help the Spanish cause – don’t drink Port (1936)

spanishFound in a pamphlet called Spain and Us. (Holborn and West Central London Committee for Spanish Medical Aid, London 1936) this contribution by  Louis Golding suggesting a boycott of the drink Port. Quite early in the history of political boycotting of products. Other contributors to this rare booklet included J. B. Priestley, Rebecca West, Stephen Spender, Ethel Mannin, Francis Meynell,  T. F. Powys, J. Langdon-Davies, and Catherine Carswell.

Drink no port.

The aeroplanes are still entering Portugal for the assistance of the gallant Generals, Franco and Mola. So are the shells, the rifles. Perhaps the poison-gas bombs are on their way by now.

And Port is still leaving Portugal.

We must drink no Port.

I know that the Port we might deny ourselves tonight is not the Port which left Portugal a fortnight from now is not likely to be balanced on adept palates for another ten, twenty, fifty years. Ten years from now there may be no docks at Oporto for the disembarkation of its Port, nor docks on the Thames for its reception. Continue reading

Let them learn cookerie and laundrie

Elizabethan housewife picGuaranteed to madden the sisterhood are these disdainful words by a certain Thomas Powell in his Welch Bate, Or a Looking Back Upon The Times Past (1603) which is included in Charmers and Caitiffs (1930), an anthology of prose and verse written by men about women:

Instead of songes and musicke, let them learne cookerie & laundrie; & instead of reading in Philip Sidney’s Arcadia, let them reade the Groundes of Good Huswiferie. I like not a female poetesse at any hand…’ 

Although there is no doubting the author of this advice, there is a problem with the full title of Mr Powell’s book. According to the editors of Charmers and Caitiffs , the full title of the collection is A Welch Bate, or a Looking Back Upon the Times Past. However, in the DNB entry for Thomas Powell we find that the work in question is entitled A Welch Bayte to Spare Prouender. The Internet has little or anything to say about Powell, and although both the DNB and The Dictionary of Welsh Biography (1959) sketch out a brief biography, neither is certain about the year of his birth and death.

What we can say is that he was born around 1572 in Diserth, Radnorshire, studied at Gray’s Inn for one year and served as solicitor-general in the marches of Wales, 1613 – 22. More interested in literature than in law, he published various works in poetry and prose, including the book in question, a justification of Queen Elizabeth’s treatment of papists and puritans, which was suppressed. However, he is better known for his pioneer work on the public records. His Direction in Search of Records remaining in the Chauncerie, Tower, Exchequer etc appeared in 1622, while A Repertorie of Records followed in 1631. He died around 1635.

[R.M.Healey]

Parkes’ Restaurant—eating place of the swinging sixties

Beauchamp_Place_In his Good Food Guide of 1961-62 Raymond Postgate describes the trendy Parkes’ Restaurant at Beauchamp Place (above) in Kensington as ‘ a personal restaurant, dependent upon Mr Ray Parkes, the chef and owner, who offers in his basement at high prices what is claimed to be , and up to date is, haute cuisine.’

Postgate then complains of the ‘ exasperating whimsicality ‘ of such named dishes as ‘ Mr Goldstein’s Prawns’ (15/6), ‘Ugly Duckling’ (25/-), ‘Sweet Mysteries of Life’ (21/-). However, Postgate admires the fact that the ‘very inventive ‘ Parkes was always creating new dishes and provided such large helpings that ‘ the place isn’t quite as dear as it sounds’. Some Jot readers who dined at Parkes’ might recall what these whimsically named dishes actually were.

Parkes is credited with being a pioneer of the nouvelle cuisine revolution that properly began in the seventies, but the conventionally named dishes cited by Postgate, including ‘fillet of beef en croute’ and ‘duck and truffle pate’ don’t sound particularly ‘ nouvelle’. Nevertheless, in his time Ray Parkes was rightly considered an ‘original genius ‘. Egon Ronay described him as ‘ absolutely unique ‘, and the author of British Gastronomy, Gregory Houston Bowden, wrote: ‘ Many experts rate him almost on a par with the chef that he himself admired most, Ferdnand Point of the ‘Restaurant de la Pyramide’ in Vienne.

In addition to his eccentricy as a chef, Parkes was also unusual in that he had no licence. Diners were invited to bring their own wine. Another attraction for the many show-biz clientele that tended to eat at Parkes’ was the fact that it might be open until 2.30 in the morning. [R.M.Healey]

Dining out at a time of rationing

Rationing at the Ritz 001When William Bently Capper, an acknowledged authority on hotel management, and incidentally brother of the famous suffragette Maude Capper, published his booklet Dining Out? in 1948, the War had only finished less than three years before. Rationing was still a problem, particularly for diners out. What was likely to be offered at a good West-end restaurant? Was it worth the expense and effort to eat out there?

The whole aim of Dining Out? was to assure gourmets that there was little to fear. Restaurants were not exempt from rationing, but as long as diners recognised that certain rules instituted in 1942 by the Ministry of Food’s supremo, Lord Woolton (promoter of the infamous Woolton Pie), applied to eating places, a pleasant meal with wine could be had almost as easily as in the pre-war era. In his chapter entitled ‘Utility meals for Austerity Times’ Capper outlines what problems gourmets were likely to encounter.

Every meal served in a public restaurant, breakfast, luncheon, tea and dinner, is limited and regulated by a four-page document known officially as the Meals in Establishments Order…Public meals are restricted to three courses—but that is not the half of it. Certainly, the restaurateur must not serve you more than three courses, but he is also restricted by law as to what he serves in those three courses. You may not have, for instance, more than one main dish; that is, a dish containing more than 25 per cent of its total weight in meat, poultry or game. You may not have more than two subsidiary dishes: dishes containing less than 25 per cent of the foods specified. If you have a main dish, you may have only one subsidiary dish in addition.

Thus, you may have hors d’oeuvres ( a subsidiary dish), followed by meat or chicken, and then a sweet or cheese. Instead of hors d’oeuvres, you may have white fish ( but not fresh water fish!), or soup or, if you forego the sweet, you may have soup, fish and a main dish. Continue reading

The Riviera Revisited (1939)

FullSizeRenderFound — a 30 page holiday brochure by Charles Graves – The Riviera Revisited. [London], [1939]. Probably written in 1938 and portraying a relaxed lifestyle, with plenty of good food and booze. Olive oil is not recommended as sun protection! After WW2 Charles Graves wrote 2 longer books on the Riviera – The Royal Riviera and (again) The Riviera Revisited… The picture of bathers at Eden Roc is from the booklet.

A Summer’s Day.

Juan-Les-Pins is the only resort I have ever visited four years in succession. I can think of no greater compliment. It has an admirable beach. It has a summer and winter season, like practically every other place on the Riviera. But whereas six or seven years ago the clientele was mainly English and American, it is now largely French, which I find charming. Somehow the prettiest girls from Paris go there for their summer holidays, and the restaurant of the casino has indubitably the best hors-d oeuvres in the world. The man who makes them is worth a fortune to any London restaurant or hotel. He stuffs everything with everything else. Pimentoes, aubergines, sardines, olives, tunny fish and so on. The casino is famous for the light-hearted character of its gambling. In the summer you wear white flannels or anything else. The croupiers smile (a distinct rarity). The champagne cocktails are first-class. The lobsters are as fresh as God made them; so are the crayfish. Let me quote from “And the Greeks”: Continue reading

The Accompaniments of Wine

bordeaux chateau bottled 1934The great oenophile and gastronome T. Earle Welby had sound and sensible, if occasionally harshly expressed, views on what to eat with wine. Here are some of his opinions taken from the brilliant Cellar Key (1933).

‘With the exception of Champagne, which is never better than when taken in the forenoon, and Sherry, which is highly adaptable, all wines need, for full enjoyment, to be accompanied or immediately preceded by food. It is thus an important part of connoisseurship to know the affinities and antipathies between particular wines and food.

To begin with the enemies of all wine whatsoever, almost all hors d’oeuvres are inimical. To a great extent they consist of smoked, pickled, or highly condimented articles, and are therefore bound to blur the palate. But there is nothing to be said against plain melon, caviare, or oysters. Genuine Chablis is proverbially most enjoyable with oysters; and all the fine white Burgundies…will accord excellently with oysters, as indeed with crab or lobster or fish of any kind. But unless melon or caviare or oysters be selected, it is wise to eliminate hors d’oeuvres on a serious vinous occasion, and simply have Spanish olives in brine put on the table as a preliminary, and kept there till the meal is at an end.

Egg dishes are usually not favourable to the enjoyment of wine, for eggs very often have more a less a sulphurous flavour, and though this may hardly matter when one is drinking the baser, over-sulphured white wines of Bordeaux, it is very harmful to all delicate wines. Continue reading

Dining with the famous in the early 1960s (2)

Hampshire


The high-flying Oxford graduate Robert Fearnley-Whittingstall visited Burley Manor in the New Forest a few months before he married gardening writer Jane in 1962. Three years later, celebrity chef Hugh, of River Cottage fame, was born. According to those who approved the hotel, the owners used their own ‘vegetables, cream, poultry and pigs ‘. So doubtless, the merits of locally sourced produce were passed onto the River Cottage presenter. However, it is unlikely that Hugh’s cooking skills were inherited from his Dad, because, according to Jane, the only dish her husband could cook for the young ladies he entertained as a bachelor was devilled kidneys!John Arlott pic

John ‘the Voice of Cricket’ Arlott, who started his career as a policeman in Basingstoke before being discovered by poet and BBC producer Geoffrey Grigson, was a oenophile and gastronome who enjoyed great hospitality at the White Horse Inn, Droxford, which just happens to be a few miles from the ‘Bat and Ball ‘pub in Hambledon, where cricket began in the eighteenth century.

In the early sixties ‘motels ‘ were becoming popular, although one doesn’t expect to find many in the Good Food Guide. However, there are at least two, one of which, ‘The Royal Oak Motel’ at Newington, near Hythe, offered, according to the approvers a delicious, though expensive selection of continental and English dishes, including escalope in Marsala ( 14/-) and frog’s legs ( 10s 6d). It is not known whether one of the approvers, Geoffrey Finsberg, a Tory councillor at just 24, who became a senior government minister in the seventies, dined here on expenses. Continue reading

Dining with the famous in the early 1960s

Norman Painting diningA copy of Raymond Postgate’s pioneering Good Food Guide for 1961 – 62 is a real eye-opener for the 21st century foodie. Forget steak, mushrooms and chips followed by Black Forest Gateau at the nearest Berni Inn—- here were restaurants where high quality and innovative dishes were served. Postgate asked those who were members of the Good Food Club to fill in the report page at the end of each guide, ‘approving’ a particular restaurant. If he liked the comments the names of the ‘approvers’ were added to the end of the restaurant entry. Most of these approvers were just ordinary people who liked good food, but a number turned out to be amongst the great and the good of the time, including writers, academics and showbiz types. It is likely that Postgate recognised these names and deliberately selected them out as a way of attracting diners who also recognised these ‘ celebs’. Here are some examples.

London

Eternal bachelor Norman Painting, who played the patriarch of long-running radio series’ The Archers’ for a record number of years after leaving an academic career at Oxford, where he fell out with his B.Litt tutor, the lazy and apathetic Lord David Cecil, was an enthusiastic diner at Bertorelli’s in Shepherds Bush, just round the corner from the BBC. He also enjoyed the food at several other good restaurants scattered over the country. A serious gastronome, it seems.

Antiquarian book legend Anthony Rota, a great diner-out, appears to have enjoyed Mediterranean cuisine at the Tavana restaurant in Heddon Court Parade, Cockfosters. He also approved the cheap ’n’ cheerful Romano Santi bistro in Greek Street, Soho, and the more traditional Foxley Hotel in Bishop’s Stortford. Continue reading

Haunt of the sixties jet-set—The Bell at Aston Clinton

Good food guide Bell Aston clintonA few days ago we heard on the radio that there was much more violence during the Great Train Robbery of 1963 than has been reflected in the over-romanticised films about it. We also learnt that the notorious Leatherslade Farm, where the robbers held out, is no more.

Luckily, ‘The Bell’ at Aston Clinton, the pub frequented by the prosecution at the trial down the road at Aylesbury, is still around. Here’s what the Good Food Guide for 1961 – 62 had to say about this very popular inn just a year before the robbery took place:

Gerard Harris now has his own company and controls the inn; perhaps his brow will become less furrowed. The Bell is no well known to our members now that it is difficult to find anything new to say about it. Its menu is large, but not gigantic and the cuisine rises to a level of real distinction…creamy pate, 3/-; Arbroath smokies in cream,3/6; coq au vin, 9/6; beef Avignon, 8/6; sweetbreads chasseur,8/6; entrecote marchand de vin, 11/-; blackcurrant sorbet,2/-;crème brule,2/6…The menu is supported by a long and a remarkably chosen wine-list. The strongest section is probably the clarets: at one end is a Haut Medoc at 10/6, at the other ‘28’s and ‘29’s—chateau bottled wines between 32/- and 45/-, which are now not at all easy to get, even from wine merchants. Ordinaires at 9/6. Often crowded, and service sometimes overtaxed ( especially the wine service); but meals are served until quite a late hour. Open all year. Bed and breakfast, 19/6; no full board (App by too many members to list .) Continue reading

Cabaret, Chinese food and national anthems in Yorkshire’s most eccentric pub

Showers John StanhopeAn entry in the 1961- 62 edition of The Good Food Guide describes the exuberant John Showers and his’ inn’, the Stanhope in Calverley Lane, Rodley, south east of Leeds, thus:

‘He fills out the nightly menus with his own essays, and he has written two books about it. Foreign visitors, of which there are many, are liable to be welcomed in their own tongue (Mr Showers’circular green notepaper has Cheerio on it in thirty languages) and escorted to their tables to the sound of their own national anthem. There is a nightly cabaret, by no means undistinguished and not ‘blue’ for which he sometimes writes the script. The dining-room is very small, and serves some English dishes but ignore them ( except for no. 80 ’curried octopus’—so English, don’t you think?) and go for the Chinese food. Try, divided among a party, the Sea Salad (9/-), inkfish with bean sprouts (8/-), Stanhope Special ( based on chicken , pork and water-chestnuts, 8/ 6) or ask for some advice…

Reading the two books in question one will discover that before he opened The Stanhope, the Essex-born Showers was, among other things, a male manikin, bus conductor, and a banana planter. In 1937, inspired by the example of the new king and his consort playing darts publicly he installed a board in his saloon, hoping to attract the upper middle class. Alas, only the local proletariat came to play, and eventually the board was relocated to the tap-room. All of which recalls Basil Fawlty’s disastrous ‘gourmet night’ ! Continue reading

White or Red ?

Jeff Koons has become the latest in a long line of illustrious artists to produce a label for the equally celebrated wine of Chateau Mouton Rothschild

Here is passage from The Cellar Key (1933) by T Earle Welby* which everyone who dines out should commit to memory.

‘…The corks of the opened bottles have been carefully examined, and smelled, after cutting off the tops, which may seem mouldy without the rest of the cork or the wine in any but a sound state. A spoonful of each wine has been tasted, with an olive-cleansed palate. The host is satisfied: the guests will be.

   But let the guests know, by inscription in the margin of the menu or by word of mouth, what wines are to be offered them. I appeal, in the divine name, to hosts and hostesses not to let a maid wander around a table asking, “White or Red?” White what? And red what? Is the choice between an honest white Graves and an equally honest red Graves, or between the former and Kangaroo Burgundy? In any event, why should such a choice be offered one? No vinously educated person can possibly want to drink red wine of any kind with the fish, or, having therefore chosen white, to be condemned to white for the whole meal.

   However, the crimes against wine committed in the house are as nothing to those in which the unconscious criminal does his horrid deeds at a restaurant. To ask guests what they will drink is a stupid abdication of the position of host, a position with higher duties than that of paying the bill. They may know what they would severally take to drink, though in an average English party three-fourths of them will not; but, even if they do, they each will hesitate to avow a preference which might send the host beyond his estimate. It is for the host to choose, and in advance of the arrival of his guests. He knows, as his guests cannot, on what scale he had conceived of the entertainment; or, if he does not, he should have bidden his friends to some restaurant with which he was better acquainted. It is for him to take complete charge; to order both food and wine before his friends arrive ; to spare the party the evil ten minutes during which its members would otherwise gape at menu and wine- list…’

*See an earlier jot on Welby – author of  the classic food book The Dinner Knell (1932).  [RR]

London pubs with unusual customs and bizarre attractions

Ye old watling picFound in the Haining Archive are these pages of handwritten notes on unusual old London pubs, possibly from a book by London topographer Royston Wells, who may have written the notes himself.

“The Wrestlers”, North Hill, Highgate

Original pub 1547. New one built 1921 around enormous Jacobean fire grate. Ancient custom of “ swearing on the horns “ still performed.

Original fire grate still there, but no mention of swearing on the horns on Website.

“ Lamb and Flag”, Covent Garden,

Covent Garden’s oldest pub, outside which Dryden was set on and nearly murdered. On 19th December glasses of mulled drinks given away to regulars to celebrate the fact that Dryden was not actually killed.

Blue plaque commemorates attack on Dryden

“Crown and Greyhound”, Dulwich Village.

HQ of Dulwich Village Perpetuation Society, who keep up Dickens’ traditions and meet here regularly in Dickensian gear.

Dickens did meet members of Dulwich Society at Greyhound, but no mention on website of present day members dressing up. Continue reading

One foot in the grave at 44 !

12796501More heart-warming advice from Real Life Problems and their Solution (1938) by the cheery R Edynbry.

‘I am just forty-four years and beginning to feel that real middle age is just around the corner. I don’t mix much with other men and never talk over my symptoms with anybody. But I often speculate as to what may be in store for me in the way of health and sickness. I should be glad if you would tell me some general symptoms of middle age so that should experience them in the coming years I should not be taken by surprise.’

Changes take place so slowly in middle age that it is often difficult to compare conditions from one year to another. The trend of physical life is now downwards, however, gradually, and whether it will be hurried or delayed depends upon the constitution and manner of living. As a rule it becomes more difficult now to plan and carry out personal schemes, the success of which depends upon quick movement and energy. The healthy flush of youth shown in the complexion, gives place to a certain pallor, except when blood pressure gives a florid appearance. Greyness and some degree of baldness begin to show. There may be a bagginess under the eyes and wrinkles at the outer corners. Hearing may not be so keen as formerly and glasses are generally necessarily for reading small print.

Perhaps the most noticeable feature of middle age is the layer of abdominal fat and the general sagging of the body. Unless increasing care is paid to the diet, dyspepsia may give trouble, and various forms of nervous irritability draw attention to the fact that something is wrong. Worry about the physical or economic situation often causes insomnia at this time. The sex life needs careful regulation and all emotional strain should be avoided as far as possible. The sensible man—who should be his own doctor to some extent in middle age—should know that one of the secrets of health and happiness at this period lies in the simplification of one’s needs and demands. Less food and plainer food; less worry because of fewer ambitions and desires; less responsibility because nothing is undertaken without reasonable hope of accomplishment. [RR]

 

A Cod Medieval Menu

design-for-chelsea-arts-club-ball-1914Found, part of a menu for the Chelsea Arts Club Ball, which was held at the Albert Hall, March 4th 1914:

Some clear Soupe—warme, ‘tis for one ande alle.

Ye Baron of Beefe, roasted ande tender

Ye Wilde Boare, hys Heade—a dishe for ye Kinge

Large Surrey Capons withe Truffles—no bones argale, eate fearlesslie

Ye Tastie Ham spyced as atte Yorke

Ye Venyson Pasty—tastilie cooked

Chykens, plump ande temptinge—trye them.

Ye Kindlye Oxe , hys Tongue

Agayne Chykens mayde toothsome by Galentyne

Dishe Pastys with Pidgeons —ryghte sustainynge

Beefe cunninglye cooked with spyces—try it

Raised Pastrys with Bubleyjocks, as they doe them in Yorkeshire—ryghte good

And thene some green stuffes with Dressinge .

AND THENE COME YE SWEETES GOODE FOR ALLE MEN ANDE MAYDENS

This year, this famous society Ball, in which fancy dress was de rigueur, must have had medieval England as its theme, although the drawing by Alex Jamieson (pictured), which sold in 2014 at Bonhams, does not suggest this. Contemporary reports record this Ball as being particularly weird and wonderful. Just a few months later many of the male party-goers would have found themselves leading troops into battle in the Flanders mud. Too many, alas, would never dance again. [RH]

‘The Morons’ Dining Club

moron-advert-001Found in the ‘Eating Places’ column in the May 1927 issue of the highly regarded American left-wing literary magazine, The New Masses, is this advert for a club called ‘The Morons’. According to the SOED (1965) the term moron comes from the Greek for foolish and was coined in 1913, presumably by a psychologist, to describe a person whose ‘intellectual development’ had been arrested.

In medical textbooks the term, along with ‘cretin’ and ‘idiot’, was still applied to a category of the mentally deficient up to the 1960s, after which time such nomenclature became otiose. It is difficult to say when exactly the word moron was freed from its scientific meaning to become the slang term so familiar to us today. It may have already been assigned slang status by 1927, when hostess Winnifred Harper Cooley, placed her advert. It is possible that the dining club borrowed the word from a derogatory reference to suffragists as ‘morons’.

The Net has nothing to tell us regarding the foundation of The Morons, but from the advert we can perhaps guess that the fortnightly meetings of this ‘ most brilliant dining club ‘ took place using a rota system in the homes of members, or even permanently at Cooley’s own New York City home. It is unlikely that any restaurant would have tolerated the raised voices and table-banging that might accompany the airing of ‘radical subjects’. Continue reading

An apology for the large breweries

allsopp-beer-picHere’s another extract from T.Earle Welby’s The Dinner Knell of 1932. This time the epicure voices an opinion which in the seventies era of the Almighty Keg would not have been accurate but which, thanks to the influence of CAMRA and other campaigning groups, may possibly ring true today.

‘Beer abides and the best of it now is as good as English beer ever was. This is not a fashionable thing to say. For years the air has been full of the moanings of those who imagine a golden age for beer, and suppose it to have been destroyed by the wickedness of the great breweries. The truth of the matter is that, until the nineteenth century was pretty well advanced, most small brewers and vendors, secure in local monopoly, adopted the most vicious methods with beer.

As late as 1824, the author of The Private Brewery wrote: ‘It has seldom been my fortune in a great number of years to taste unadulterated purchased ale, whether brewed in the metropolis or in the brewing districts of the country’. For years before that date and for some years later an extremely harmful and highly intoxicating drug, the Indian berry ( coccollus Indicus) was freely used in beer ; and willow bark, walnut leaf, quassia, gentian, aloes, entered into the production of what was sold in hundreds of establishments and more particularly in the abominable beer-houses produced by the Duke of Wellington’s Act. Continue reading

The Dinner Knell (1932)

free-vintage-color-illustration-of-cabbage-image-2Found, The Dinner Knell, the book published just months before his death aged 52 by prolific journalist and fin de siecle expert T(homas ) Earle Welby, (1881 – 1933). The premature demise of Welby, who was known to his New Statesman readers as ‘Stet’, may have had something to do with a love of food that informs much of his writing, including this particularly lively excursion into the world of gastronomy.

Reading The Dinner Knell, one is reminded not so much of a modern restaurant critic such as Michael Winner or Giles Coren, but of a cook with rather conservative tastes, like Elizabeth David or Jane Grigson, who has practical knowledge of traditional food and culinary skills and is apt to bemoan the general decline of standards to be found in shops and eating establishments. Take this giant-sized slice of diatribe on the topic of the humble cabbage:

“The ‘cut from the joint and two veg’ is indubitably the basis of something or other, whether it be the British Empire or of British dyspepsia; my own belief is that we are a cabbage-clogged nation, and the slowness of out mental processes is due to the ingestion day by day of enormous quantities of that soggy and damnable and compulsory article of diet. Continue reading

A War Cookery Book

Found – a publisher’s advertisement (T. Werner Laurie) for a book of cookery recipes for war zones. It was in D’Auvergne’s ABC Guide to the Great War (1914). The book itself is rare but a copy can be found at the invaluable archive.org. Its full title is: A War Cookery Book IMG_0007 for the Sick and Wounded : compiled from the cookery books by Mrs. Edwards, Miss May Little, etc., etc. (by Jessie M. Laurie.) It was aimed at ‘every nurse, whether Volunteer or Professional’ and has easy to prepare dishes for ‘Invalid and Convalescent Patients.’ Here is a selection of  egg dishes. Obviously alcohol was considered useful and it is assumed that herbs can be fairly easily procured (parsley and thyme).

BREAD AND MILK.-Take a thick slice of fairly
stale bread. Cut it into tiny squares, and after having
cut away the crusts put it into an enamel saucepan
with about 1 pint of milk; boil up very slowly. Sugar
or salt to taste.

EGGS BAKED IN TOMATOES.-Choose rather large
tomatoes of equal size, cut a piece off the top of the
tomatoes, scoop out the pulp carefully, sprinkle on a
little salt and pepper, break an egg into a cup and pour
it into the hollow of the tomato, place on a greased
baking tin and cook slowly until the egg is set, basting
with a little butter. Continue reading