Last week I was given something very special. My grandmother gave me her first ever cookbook ‘Good Housekeeping’ which was given to her by her Mother. The book dates back to the nineteen fifties and the old yellowed pages are splattered and stained. The spine is coming apart from over-use and the pages are clinging on by just a few threads. The book is crammed with hand written recipes and notes neatly penned by my grandmother. It’s also cluttered with cut-outs from the paper with recipes that caught her eye. I feel like I am going back in time, as I read the old recipes and paper cuttings from a time gone by.
Having flicked through the pages, one of the first things that struck me was how commercially minded cookbook publishers were in these times. This cookbook is crammed with advertisements for products we know and love such as Bourneville Chocolate, Kenwood mixers and Weetabix. Looking at the beautiful full colour ads, I am instantly transported to the age of Mad Men and glamorous housewives.
It was an age without the Internet, without food blogs and with little or no cookery programmes on TV; hence the cookbook really was a bible and fountain of all knowledge. As well as recipes, cookbooks informed about modern kitchen utensils, hygiene and all the fundamentals of good housekeeping. Running a good home was a job in those days, and a job to be proud of.
This book was published not long after the war and it’s evident from the book that times were tough. This is especially true for recipes that call for luxury ingredients such as chocolate. ‘Economy Chocolate cake’ uses only a smidgen of cocoa powder to give it a chocolaty flavour. Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine a chocolate cake relying on a sprinkle of cocoa powder and not a mention of 70 percent dark chocolate!
There are some recipes that are still alive and well today, while others such as preserved eggs and jellied eels have virtually disappeared. I am really looking forward to trying a few of these recipes for myself, especially the iced fancies which look like the kind of posh cakes you might get in any modern cake shop. Stay tuned for more recipes from the past…..
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