An 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
Found, 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
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 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
Baked Elephant’s Foot. Just one of the exotic dishes that features in Spotlight on Lucullus, A miniature Anthology of the pleasures of the Table –which is twenty-eighth in the series of ‘ minithologies ‘ created by a certain Max Crombie, some of the others being devoted to bird poetry, Christmas, love lyrics, the prose of Richard Jefferies, drink songs and the four seasons. Originating from the modest Knights Press in Northwood, Middlesex, from c 1940 to 1942, these booklets were slightly smaller than Penguin paperbacks and certainly shorter, being, in most cases, no more than twenty four pages in length. Well known book illustrators provided the ‘decorations ‘in the form of vignettes. The subject matter covered was presumably chosen to lift wartime spirits ( though the irony of describing banquets at a time of wartime shortages was doubtless not lost on many readers,) and perhaps to inject a little nationalist pride into a demoralised populace.
As for the account of the baked elephant’s foot, it was supplied by the French gastronome Le Vaillant, who witnessed the culinary practices of the Hottentots while travelling through Africa:
‘They cut off the four feet of the animal, and made in the earth a hole about three feet square. This was filled with live charcoal, and, covering the hole with very dry wood, a large fire was kept up during part of the night. When they thought the hole was large enough it was emptied; a Hottentot then placed within it the four feet of the animal, covered then with hot ashes, and with charcoal and small wood; and this fire was kept burning until the morning. My servants presented me at breakfast with an elephant’s foot. It had considerably swelled in the cooking; I could hardly recognise the shape, but it appeared so good, exhaled so inviting an odour, that I hastened to taste it. I could not conceive how so heavy , so material an animal as the elephants, could furnish a dish so fine and delicate, and I devoured without bread, my elephant’s foot, while my Hottentots, seated around me, regaled themselves with other parts which they found equally delicious.’
Found in a pamphlet of c 1796, entitled On Food, and particularly of Feeding the Poor by the pioneer of cheaply produced dishes , Benjamin, Count Rumford, is a recipe that is not likely to catch on among modern foodies, though those who like experimenting with trendy cereals such as Quinoa, might find it intriguing. To me it sounds like a superior thickened gruel, but others might disagree.
Receipt for a very cheap Soup
‘Take of water eight gallons, and mixing with it 5lbs of barley-meal, boil it to the consistency of a thick jelly.—Season it with salt, pepper, vinegar, sweet herbs, and four red herrings, pounded in a mortar.—-Instead of bread, add to it 5lb. of Indian Corn made into Samp, and stirring it together with a ladle, serve it up immediately in portions of 20 ounces.
|A pot of Rumford’s Soup from the basic recipe: pearl barley and dried peas, water, salt, some vinegar (no potatoes). Thanks to Gestumblindi.|
Found - an 'extract' from a book about food with a recipe for pearl barley soup. This piece appears in various forms throughout the 19th century but derives from work with the poor by Benjamin Thompson (Count Rumford
) when he was army minister in Bavaria in the 1790s. Rumford was an American ennobled by the courts of Europe because of his pioneer discoveries in cooking.The soup is sometimes known as Rumford's Soup
. He wrote:
The difference in the apparent goodness, or the palatableness, and apparent nutritiousness of the same kinds of food, when prepared or cooked in different ways struck me very forcibly and I constantly found that the richness or quality of a soup depended more upon a proper choice of the ingredients and a proper management of the fire in the combination of those ingredients, than upon the quantity of solid nutritious matter employed ;— much more upon the art and skill of the cook, than upon the amount of the sums laid out in the market.
I found, likewise, that the nutritiousness of a soup, or its power of satisfying hunger, and affording nourishment, appeared always to be in proportion to its apparent richness or palatableness. But what surprised me not a little, was a discovery of the very small quantity of solid food, which, when properly prepared, will suffice to satisfy hunger, and support life and health ; and the very trifling expense at which the stoutest and most laborious man may, in any country, be fed.
From "As We Like it" Recipes by Famous People edited by Kenneth Downey (Arthur Barker, London 1950.) Famous people included Joyce Grenfell, Georgette Heyer, Leslie Charteris, Douglas Fairbanks, Christopher Fry, Celia Johnson Vivian Leigh, Richard Mason, Charles Morgan, Ivor Novello Laurence Olivier, Wilfred Pickles, Freya Stark, Richard Rogers, Eleanor Roosevelt ,Katherine Hepburn, Enid Blyton and Clementina Churchill. The book has a forward by Edwina Mountbatten of Burma and she writes that every penny from the sale of the book will go to the funds of the Returned Prisoners of War Association.
There is much mention of rationing and tinned food but in this recipe from America's first lady whipped cream is called for with the huckleberries. The recipe is very similar to the British one for Summer Pudding - made with blackberries, black and red currants, raspberries etc., In that the soaking tends to be overnight and a good weight on top is advised. The bread should not be completely juice sodden, and a piebald appearance is favoured.
Cut crusts from slices of white bread. Line bottom and sides of casserole or china bowl (size and quantity dependent on number to be served). Pour in cooked and sweetened huckleberries to cover bottom, then add another slice of bread and more huckleberries, alternating until the dish is filled. Put in ice-box for several hours so berry juice will soak through bread. Serve with plain or whipped cream.
Some recipes from the 1939 marshmallow cook book Make Mine with Marshmallows. The booklet was produced by the Angelus Campfire Company and the company continues today as Doumak in Bensonville near Chicago. The original marshmallow, a delicacy enjoyed by the Pharaohs in 2000 BC, was based on the marshmallow plant. The modern variety is simply corn syrup, sugar, dextrose, water and (the magic ingredient) air. Doumak have a website about the history and manufacture of marshmallows. Here are 3 recipes from this excellent cookbook.
CAMPFIRE MARSHMALLOW MERINGUE
1 quarter-pound package (16) Campfire Marshmallows
1 tablespoon milk
2 egg whites
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Found - a vegan book from 1987 Pregnancy Children and the Vegan Diet by Michael Klaper ( Gentle World inc., Florida.) An interesting slightly out dated book but still of great interest because of the vegan children on the cover - the late teenage heart-throb River Phoenix, his sisters Liberty and Summer Phoenix, and his brother Leaf who changed his name to Joaquin Phoenix (same row, right) and is thankfully still with us.
The jolly gap toothed kid at bottom left is Ocean Robbins, son of John Robbins of the Baskin Robbins dynasty and author of the groundbreaking Diet for a new America. The story of the Phoenix family is told at River Phoenix's Wikipedia entry.
The parents were hippies of the 1970s, ex Children of God, who had become vegans at a commune in South America. When they finally got as far as Los Angeles top child star agent Iris Burton spotted River, Joaquin and their sisters Summer and Rain singing for spare change in Westwood, and was so charmed by the family that she soon represented the four siblings. At jot we are keen on recipes - here is one from this excellent work:
TOFU EGGLESS SALAD
2 12 oz cakes of tofu
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon oil
2 small onions, diced
2 celery stalks diced
Half teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
6 tablespoons nutritional yeast
In a medium size bowl, mash the tofu add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate to keep cold. Delicious with salad or as a sandwich. Serves 4.
|Wilfred Pickles and his wife Mabel
From "As We Like it" Recipes by Famous People edited by Kenneth Downey (Arthur Barker, London 1950.) There is much mention of rationing as in this recipe from Wilfred Pickles. Rather forgotten today but at one point his shows on BBC Radio and TV attracted millions. He also appeared as the grumpy father in Billy Liar (1963).
Here is the recipe I promised you: in these days of shortage of meat this is a recipe which is easy to make and all of the food is unrationed.
First, steam some macaroni in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes, then make a white sauce with grated cheese. Put this cheese sauce over the macaroni, fry some rings of onions crisp, grill some tomatoes and serve with hot, dry toast. And by gum it's grand!
From "As We Like it" Recipes by Famous People edited by Kenneth Downey (Arthur Barker, London 1950.) Famous people included Joyce Grenfell, Georgette Heyer, Leslie Charteris, Douglas Fairbanks, Christopher Fry, Celia Johnson Vivian Leigh, Richard Mason, Charles Morgan, Ivor Novello Laurence Olivier, Wilfred Pickles, Freya Stark, Richard Rogers, Eleanor Roosevelt ,Katherine Hepburn, Enid Blyton and Clementina Churchill. The book has a forward by Edwina Mountbatten of Burma and she writes that every penny from the sale of the book will go to the funds of the Returned Prisoners of War Association. There is much mention of rationing and tinned food but Evelyn Waugh goes for an extravagant and slightly incapacitating mulled wine in full Brideshead fashion.
Mulled Claret (for six persons)
Take six bottles of red wine (it would be improper to use really fine Bordeaux, but the better the wine, the better the concoction.) Any sound claret or burgundy will do. 1 cup full of water; 2 port glasses of brandy; 1 port glass of ginger wine; 1 orange stuffed with cloves; peel of two lemons; 3 sticks of cinnamon; one grated nutmeg.
Heat in covered cauldron. Do not allow to simmer. Serve hot and keep hot on the hob. Should be drunk at the same temperature as tea.
To be drunk during and after luncheon in February or after dinner on any winter evening.
Enid Blyton's recipe is for a fairly simple and economical Cherry Cake for the children…
This is a cake my own children love, and is easy to make when children come to tea.
Half pound of margarine. 3 eggs. 6 ounces castor sugar.6 ounces cherries. 6 ounces flour. A few drops of vanilla essence.
Method: Beat the margarine and sugar till soft and creamy, drop in eggs one by one and beat well in between each. Add flour gradually, and lastly cherries and flavouring. If too stiff, add a little milk. Bake in a moderate oven to start, and then drop to Regulo 3. It takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to bake.
This is just as nice with fruit instead of cherries, or ginger cut up it is excellent.
Half the quantity makes a nice little cake for tea, but only takes 3/4 to 1 hour to cook.
From Les Boissons et Liqueurs economique by Etienne Ducret (Paris, c 1890.)
This was sent in by loyal jotter and foodie RR.
A recipe for snail syrup.
First: pound together very finely:500 grammes of snails and 500 grammes of sugar ; then, pass this paste through a fine sieve.
Second: combine 500grammes of sweet almonds; 150 grammes of bitter almonds. Pound them with 500 grammes of sugar and 125 grammes of water. Dilute this paste in 825 grammes of water. Strain vigorously.
Third: add to this emulsion your mixture of sugar and snails that you dissolved in a bain marie on a low heat.
Fourth: when the sugar has melted add a certain quantity of orange flower water.
For consumption and bronchitis, 3 to 6 teaspoonfuls of this syrup is recommended per day.
Only ingredient missing------puppy dogs’ tails. Incidentally, M. Ducret (1829 – 1909), as well as being a gastronome (he also wrote a book on patisserie) seems to have been a literary hack in fin de siècle Paris. His book contains several recipes for absinthe.