Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The White-Watson Menu and Recipe-Book (c1930)

‘This book has been written for the modern housewife and in compiling it her many duties and varied interests have been borne in mind, for, while as interested in food and catering as her grandmother, the woman of to-day has not the time for long cooking processes nor the money for expensive dishes.’

I have to admit, I have a soft spot for recipe books with daily menus. This little gem has a whole year of them: Breakfast, Luncheon, Dinner, High Tea and Supper. Not that it was intended that one eat all five meals a day. A note in the authors’ preface states that menus for High Tea are included ‘due to their popularity in the North of England and Scotland’, although at the time High Tea and Supper might easily replace dinner for children, the rushed or just the plain strapped for cash.

The authors tell us: ‘In accord with modern opinion on diet, meals are definitely short.’

And : ‘In planning the menus, the beverages to be taken at breakfast and tea have not been suggested, neither have bread and butter and jams been given; these are not the matters which trouble the housewife; it is the obtaining of variety in such foods as meat and vegetables, soups, fish, sweets, egg and cheese dishes, which cause her perplexity.’ Indeed.

As in so many books of this period we are given a chapter on ‘Invalid Dishes’ and, more unusually, one on cooking with ‘Tinned and Bottled Foods’.

The recipes themselves are not elaborate and the menus not extravagant, or at least not for the 1930's. The book was aimed, I think, at the lower middle classes – no mention is made of servants or a cook (which would not have been at all uncommon at the time). For example, the menu suggested for today, the 24th April is:

Breakfast: Porridge and milk; Poached eggs on toast.
Luncheon: Baked Halibut, mashed potatoes; Fruit in Jelly.
Dinner: Julienne Soup; Mixed Grill, grilled tomatoes, potato ribbons; Queen of Puddings.
High Tea: Stewed Rhubarb; Vanilla Buns.
Supper: Lobster Salad (Tinned Lobster); Cheese and Biscuits.

The food suggested is always very seasonal, with lots of fish and much use of offal and such delights as calf’s head and brawn (ick).

I deliberated long and hard over buying this book. It was a little more than I would usually pay (it was in an Oxfam Charity Bookshop and they tend to be more pricey than a normal charity shop). I looked at it, put it back on the shelf and left the shop – then returned later at the end of a day of shopping, very glad to find it still there. It isn’t as delightfully quirky as some books I have from this period but who could resist a whole year’s worth of menus or indeed this

Or this

From today’s menu, a recipe for Vanilla Buns (but alas with no suggestion of an oven temperature):

½ lb corn flour (cornstarch)
6oz butter
4oz sugar
2 eggs
½ teaspoonful baking powder
½ teaspoonful vanilla essence

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and the other ingredients. Place in little heaps on a greased tin. Bake for about 10 minutes. Cool on a tray.

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