Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A kitchen goes to war

I'm amazed that the National Library let me borrow this - and just a little bit nervous!

This is a 1940 publication: A Kitchen Goes To War - Famous People Contribute 150 Recipes To A Ration-Time Cookery Book. It appears to be made in collaboration with the Great Britain Gas Industry, it was quite common for such organizations to publish cookbooks and household hints (I have some from the 50s produced by a petroleum company, that in addition to recipes gives handy tips for women drivers.) Anyway, first things, 'famous people' at this particular time in Britain means the upper class, whose exploits the public would have followed in the society papers. So here we have some - ahem - well known names as Lady David Douglas-Hamilton, Viscountess Halifax, Lady Milne-Watson, Margot, Countess of Oxford and Asquith, Chef de Cuisine of The Savoy and The Dowager Lady Nunburnholme. Hoity toity eh? But it would have given housewives the sense that this was indeed a 'people's war' and that they were all in it together. More familiarly we find recipes from authors Rebecca West, Agatha Christie and Stella Gibbons.

This is early days in rationing so let's take a look at the ingredients: margarine, lard and dripping instead of butter; tinned corned beef, salmon and herrings; fresh cod and rabbit; offal; many, many potatoes and swedes (there are a billion recipes for swedes!); very little in the way of seasoning beyond salt and pepper, there's the odd nutmeg and cayenne pepper and of course, generic curry powder; white sauce in every second recipe; sweetened condensed milk and golden syrup instead of sugar. Eggs are still eggs at this stage rather than powdered. Onions still seem plentiful. And you'd never know there was a fuel shortage given the cooking times.

The recipes are pretty austere: macaroni cheese, swede soup, cod baked with milk and potatoes, rabbit pie. Agatha Christie contributes a recipe for Mystery Potatoes (potatoes mashed with anchovies), there's a recipe for cabbage stuffed with sausage meat (boiled for two hours) and rabbit pudding consists simply of one rabbit, one rasher of bacon, salt, pepper and a pastry crust of water, flour and margarine. More surprisingly there are a few recipes for lentils, a gnocchi of semolina parmesan cheese (most unlikely) and some idiot suggests foie gras and gruyere cheese on toast (graciously suggesting housewives can substitute 'the more modest citizen's chicken and ham paste, which alas! will lack the charm of the truffles').

Railway pudding
6 oz flour
3 oz margarine or dripping
2 oz sugar
1 egg
A little milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
Sift the flour with the baking-powder and a pinch of salt. Rub in the fat, add the sugar and mix with the beaten egg and about 4 tablespoons of milk. Put in a greased pie-dish, and bake in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes. Serve with warmed jam on top.

American cream cheese and pineapple salad
Place pieces of pineapple on lettuce leaves and garnish with small balls made of cream cheese, rolled in a mixture of paprika pepper, chopped parsley and finely chopped nuts. Serve with French dressing.

Irish stew made with sausages
1/2 lb sausages
2 lb potatoes
1/2 pound onions
1 pint water
Pepper and salt
Cut the sausages into neat pieces, place them in a saucepan, just covering the meat with cold water; add a pinch of salt and a little pepper. Cut the onions into quarters and add to the sausages. Simmer for an hour. Cut the potatoes into rather large pieces and add; cook over a low flame for another hour or until the potatoes are soft. Correct the seasoning and serve in a hot dish.

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Sailor Lily said...

oh plerk! Gech!
I'm impressed that they all did it for love of kin, king and country, but really what god-awful recipes they were! Not even a good fistful of salt and pepper...

Proud Womon said...

so glad we live with the food choices now!!! ohh, the 60s saw the irish stew with sausages turned into curried sausages with the addition of sultanas and keens curry powder(well that was my mothers version anyway - yuk!!!)