Sunday, 28 June 2015

From my cook book shelf - The Bestway Cookery Book

I'm sure you know how much I love old and interesting cookery books, and this is one that I picked up for a few pounds in an antique shop. Unfortunately it is undated, but the illustrations put it firmly in the first half of the 20th century. The style of labelling on the colour plates suggests maybe the 1930s.

The full title of the book is "Bestway Cookery Gift Book which tells you all the important details other cookery books leave out!" although there doesn't seem to be very much detail included that wouldn't be found in any other recipe book of the time.

Much of the book is devoted to cakes and puddings, with the first chapter entirely devoted to cakes and further ones covering hot puddings and pies, cold desserts, chocolate dishes and jams and preserves. Although every dish is photographed, very little attention has been paid to presentation, with wonky candles on a birthday cake and carelessly piped cream on desserts. The dishes and plates used for presentation seem to be a very limited range and some photos are used to illustrate more than one dish. For instance macaroni cheese, cheese souffle and rice pudding all seem to be exactly the same photo!


Some of the recipe names would raise a few eyebrows these days. I was quite worried about the idea of Jelly Mange..... It sounds like something you might take your pet to the vet to be treated for, but actually it is a packet jelly made up with half water and half milk, presumably a play on the word blancmange. And as for the cooking times for veg.......25 minutes of boiling for asparagus! Surely it would disintegrate to a mush. Or, as Mark suggested, maybe water boiled at a lower temperature in those days. It's inflation, you know, everything's gone up since then.

Something I really love about old recipe books is the fact that previous owners of them have often tucked in clippings from newspapers and magazines. This book contains a lovely selection, including recipes for cold beef and for apricots, as well as suggested menus for entertaining your mother in law for the day. And two real gems: one is one of Elizabeth David's original newspaper columns, all about "baby marrows" or courgettes. These columns were the basis for her earliest recipe books, so now I can quite honestly say I own a first edition Elizabeth David! The other appeals to me not just as a food lover, but as a comper. It is a column from the Daily Telegraph dated Friday May 30th 1947 and gives the results of a competition they had run to find new recipes for salad cream. And the recipes sound lovely, too. In fact I may well give the first prize winner a try.

The first prize, of a patterned coffee set, was won by a Mrs C C Stevens of Chorley Wood, the second of a cream making machine by a Miss M N Spencer of Clifton and the third, of £1 cash, to Mrs J Hamilton of Tiverton. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they, or one of their descendants, were reading this?

And finally - don't you just love the frock? "Does my bum look big in this?"

1 comment:

Claire Toplis said...

Fabulous I remember you buying it ~ what a find