Good Things in England

Florence White ( 1863 - 1940),  recently lauded by TV chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and trendy cultural historian Alexandra Harris, author of Romantic Moderns, founded the English Folk Cookery Association in 1928 in order to promote regional cookery in the UK. In the book that emerged from her extensive research, Good Things in England (1932), a brilliant anthology of recipes from 1399 to 1932, White unashamedly name checks many of her friends, colleagues, and suppliers in the proud tradition of Dr Kitchiner, whose early nineteenth century Cooks’ Oracle did something similar, though on a much smaller scale.

Michael Cardew - Ramekin

For instance I don’t think Kitchiner would ever have said  'These mutton chops taste  twice as good on one of Mr Wedgwood’s beautifully decorated Queensware plates ', which is essentially what Smith is doing when in her own recipe for Savoury Baked Eggs she writes approvingly of what we would now call ramekins that were produced by pioneer studio potter Michael Cardew. 'For these use the delightful little slip-ware pipkins made by Michael Cardew at Winchcombe, Gloucestershire…'

In this early stage of his career, Cardew (1901 – 83), then a little known disciple of Bernard Leach, must have been delighted with this free publicity from such a trusted source, especially as White’s book quickly became a best-seller. Good Things in England  is now regarded as a key document in the renaissance of regional British cookery that was to have its zenith in the work of Jane Grigson and others. As for Cardew, now acknowledged as only second to Leach himself in originality, his pots can sell for four-figure sums, and recently his enormous influence has been the focus of a full-length  biography , The Last Sane Man in England, which discusses, among many other things, his 'obsession' with food. [RR]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *