Austerity Era Dining
Another long weekend in London, another little trip to Persephone Books. This time I returned home with a selection of cookery-themed books from the 1930s and 40s. I say ‘cookery-themed’ because they are a little more than just recipe books. Kitchen Essays by Agnes Jekyll, for example, is full of entertaining and slightly satirical commentary.
Your spinster aunt will certainly accuse you of undue extravagance after she has partaken freely of your [Gigot de Six Heures].
Complaints of the difficulties one can have when one’s cook, “whose mothers so often specialize in sudden and disastrous illnesses” during the holiday season, leave and one is faced with an unexpected emergency. i.e. having to cook!
The recipes themselves are curious indeed, looking at them with a 21st century eye. Gelee Creme de Menthe begins
Make a quart of good lemon jelly in the approved way, preferably with calves’ feet…
or shopping lists for the butcher that read
half a pound calf’s liver, half a pound veal cutlet, 1 sweetbread, 2 kidneys and a set of brains
So one book is rather liberally peppered with French recipe names – Potage a la Ecossaise? - well that’ll be Scotch Broth then – giving it a sense of belonging to the more privileged classes.
The other book is more prosaic. A wartime ‘make do and mend’ handbook for cheap and cheery, easy to cook, food. Although still with curiously named dishes like Jugged Hare or Junket and Cream.
So this is my latest plan. Age of Austerity Dinner Parties. I will head down to Findlay’s in Portobello with my shopping list of liver, calves’ feet, kidneys and brains, guests should all come in frippery-free, 1940s style clothing, preferably with some homemade stout or equivalent – and we can all explore together, the joys of 101 things to put in aspic.
Followed by tinned peaches and a milk pudding.
p.s. photo was taken in Shakespeare and Co, Paris not Persephone Books, London