I made a charming discovery today. Something I hadn't looked at in years. I've written about my mum before, how she was a wonderful cook, seamstress, wife and mother (as well as a primary school teacher). She seemed to adore creating a cosy and cosseting home for her family. Her family and her home were the most important things in her life. That is the thing I admire and love most about her, and why I have obsessively saved things like her sewing machine, tea sets and cake tins.
I sorted through my cookery books today, when will I learn that I need no more? I have everything from a USA Diner cookbook to a 1950s Northumbria Women's Institute cook book (that was a disappointment to be sure, I was expecting great jam making recipes, I got 101 ways with brains and testicles).
Anyway, today I found my mum's own, homemade cookery book. She must have started this in the mid-late 1950s. The whole thing is thriftily and modestly complied in a National Coal Board book. (I remember we had lots of NCB stationary knocking about growing up). The book has 156 numbered pages, an index at the front and is filled with articles lovingly cut from women's magazines.
It really is a fascinating read. I am terribly enamored with the 'Brides' Cookery Course' pages. My mum seemed to like them too, there are a lot of those cuttings. I wonder whether she excitedly tried out these recipes on my unsuspecting dad, in the early days of their marriage.
'Eileen is looking forward to her first tea party when she's married. It will be a chance to show off her pretty new china and her cooking skills!'
There are also some snippets of advice on how to give a charming party. Take note ladies:
- Hang a welcoming nosegay on the door to greet your guests as they arrive.
- For serving the buffet put on a frilly apron. Your guests will love such a pretty waitress!
- Pin up notices with amusing drawings 'This way to the powder room!!', 'This way to the bathroom!!' (I thought the powder room was the bathroom, now I feel confused and inadequate, as I am obviously lacking a powder room).
- Play your favourite record on the gramaphone softly, to give your party a gay atmosphere.
- Be sure to have an eye-catching centrepiece on the buffet. How about Glazed and Dressed Tongue, served with Egg and Olive in Aspic?
I also love the glorious, gaudily technicolour pictures that accompany some of the recipes. Look at this retro gateau: swiss roll, sprinkled with canned fruit salad and topped with whipped cream.
As well as the cuttings there are pages of my mum's own handwritten recipes. Devil's Food Cake with Marshmallow Frosting, Lancashire Hot Pot, Apple Strudel and William Biscuits. I can't help but wonder if those were a favourite of my dad (he was called William).
Of course lots of the recipes include ingredients that are very post-war, everything is fried in lard (or dripping), there is a fascination with aspic and gelatine, there are few references to butter, it is always margarine.
I do think I shall try some of the recipes this week though, I shall wear a frilly apron whilst cooking. I think I'd have made a great 1950s housewife you know. Apart from the actual being married part, which I would struggle with I'm sure.