Monday, 3 March 2008

Sepia-Toned Baking


Could this take its place as the Unmitigated Cook Book? I was reminded of its existence in the Ashley Archive this morning when my sister-in-law and I had a meaningful discussion about the making of cheese straws (called cheese fingers here), and she was reminded of this little book being given by my mother to her new daughters-in-law at their 1960's weddings. Fishing it out I was reminded that its boldly-lettered cover loomed large in my childhood. Mum's copy had a hole punched in the top left hand corner to facillitate its hanging by a piece of string to the side of her speckled-blue and white enamelled New World gas cooker. It was just at head height, so I would thumb through the baking-stained pages in order to point out what I'd like for my tea, just like Miss Be-Ro on the cover. Spiced Buns, Granny Loaf, Custard Tarts and Dropped Scones that, when told about them, I assumed had to be hurled across the kitchen after baking, much as I had done across the garden when first presented with a plate of tripe. All the recipes revolved around the use of Be-Ro Self-Raising Flour, produced by Thomas Bell & Sons in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Nottingham. It was with great excitement that I first spotted their big brown Albion lorries out on the road, presenting flours to the post-war housewives of England. Be-Ro, and the cook book, is remarkably still available to those who like to get a bun in the oven after a Sunday roast.

8 comments:

Lady Barbara Skelton said...

Ah, the New World cooker....I have yet to persuade my doubtful husband that one of these would look wonderful in our kitchen, but I live in hope (either that or I buy one of ebay and surprise him with it). One of my collecting bugs is for cookery books from the 30s, 40s and 50s - they're a great insight into the social history of the period. A particular gem is 'Cookery Illustrated & Household Mangement', which states "Do not attempt at any time to entertain elaborately without the help of a maid". Sound advice indeed.

Philip Wilkinson said...

I think the Be-Ro cookbook must have been reprinted for years. My mother had one that I believe she used at school in the 1930s, the source of many a scone and rock cake. The Be-Ro girl on the cover was the same one, I seem to remember, although her features were disguised by decades of spilled butter and glacé cherries.

Lady Barbara Skelton said...

Just a random comment: has anyone also noticed how often TG Green's Cornishware makes an appearence in vintage cookery books and on food packaging? Or am I just the only spod here?

Peter Ashley said...

I think T.G.Green's blue and white Cornishware is synonymous with our subconscious visual folk memories of fresh, clean dairies, whether we remember purchasing our cream and butter from them or not. We see the same idea in butcher's blue and white striped aprons. Or perhaps it's just me. Anyhow, what's a spod m'lady?

Camilla Jessop said...

Mummy's guru was Philip Harben - a regular and welcome visitor to our home, courtesy of EK Cole(in black and white, of course). It was definitely Grandad's sense of humour at work when he bought Mr Harben's "Tools for Cookery" for Mummy's birthday one year - he said he hoped it would inspire her to stop using his! Despite this, Mummy's cooking still freqently required the use of hammer, chisels, files, saws and wire brush to either serve or deal with the aftermath. I'm not sure whether Granda's Rudge or Mummy's cooking made me more proficient with handling tools!

Peter Ashley said...

I once utilised a hammer, chisel and Stanley knife to get some Whitstable Natives open.

A F-A said...

Just a small point Camilla: "....proficient AT handling tools" I think. An area in which my knowledge is limited (my own, excepted).

Wartime Housewife said...

I own a copy of this book from the 1930's and was delighted to see that it is on sale in the Co-Operative by the tills. It goes without saying that The Wartime Housewife uses this (1930's)book on a regular basis and I can vouch for the recipes. My favourite recipes are made obvious in any of my books as they are the ones with the most ingredients splattered across them. I have a sepia bulb everywhere for authenticity. We only revert to colour on school days.