Monday, 5 March 2012
Those were the days...
or were they?
During the nineteen forties we used to have a Sunday school anniversary tea every year. It was always the same - potted beef sandwiches, caraway seed cake and a plate of fairy cakes (one each). One girl, called Nora, used to always start with the cakes so that by the time the others got round to the cake stage (having been taught by their mothers to always begin with sandwiches) there were none left. No-one wanted to sit near Nora, understandably. Her mother used to complain that people were ostracising her.
But, as you will see, the fare was plain and simple, so easy to prepare - and easy to eat because you knew exactly what you were sitting down to.
We were talking about cooking and cookery books yesterday and my daughter-in-law mentioned that she was going through her cookery books and throwing some of the old ones out. The photo above shows one of the books that was going into the recycling bin. This book is the 34th edition.
The one I used to have must have been much earlier and had a brown cover. But for old times
sake I asked if I could have it. I have just been looking through it over my coffee. Oh, how simple things were in those days. Most cakes had butter or margarine, sugar, eggs, milk and flour (Bero naturally). Maybe a few ground almonds, a squeezed lemon, a few sultanas.
I opened one of my cookery books at the cake section and took a few 'modern' ingredients at random - polenta, corn meal, vanilla pod, frangelico hazelnut liqueur. Need I go on? It has all got so sophisticated, but is it necessarily better I wonder.
My mother was what was always called a 'good, plain cook'. Friday was her baking day and it was always more or less the same - enough bread for the week, plum or currant bread to slice and spread with butter, scones, victoria sandwich cake, jam tarts, maybe lemon curd tarts for a change and maybe a few maids of honour. Sunday lunch would add an apple pie to this lot. She must have spent more or less the whole day baking, but that is what mothers did in those days.
Now, of course, the modern housewife (if they still use such a term) works and buys most of the stuff our mothers used to bake. That is unless they are health conscious, in which case they forego all of it and eat salad instead.
Now we try cooking Italian, or Thai, or Chinese, or Spanish - we will have a go at anything. And think of all the vegetables we can buy - in and out of season. And whoever thought of stir-frying in those days and yet it is the simplest and tastiest way to cook so many vegetables.
And what about steamed puddings? Do people still eat these? Oh golly I would love a steamed apple pudding made with brown sugar, so that when you cut it open a golden brown syrup runs out. Or a treacle pudding, or a spotted dick - but of course I don't make them - bad for our health.
Well, I have by no means exhausted the topic of then and now food, but my mouth is watering and my senses are swimming with all those tastes of long ago. So I shall stop. But I shall pop this Bero book on the shelf and think of something I can make from it. As it is Dominic's birthday on Saturday I may well make a Bar Gateau (Page 41) which is the old Victoria sandwich cake recipe cooked in an oblong tin - I am sure he will appreciate it.