After a very unfruitful day I came home feeling stressed and spent the evening watching TV in a largely vegetative state. One of the programmes I watched was The Hairy Bikers: Mum Knows Best. In this programme the two unlikey looking cooks went around the country looking for family recipes handed down across the generations. It got me thinking about a very old cook book sitting on my shelves with a dusty hard cover and a yellowed brittle pages. I rescued it from my mother's house when she moved. I think it was probably my grandmothers as my mother wasn't much of a cook. The book was published in 1952 and probably written when rationing was still in force. It is called Practical Cooking by Elizabeth Craig and describes itself as
"a book of simple, econmical recipes and cookery processes that will help the modern housewife to provide nourishing meals for the family"
The recipes use simple ingredients, (no fancy spices or flavours), cheap cuts of meat, little cream or cheese and the occassional limited use of a little butter. There are sections on preserving food, making stock from old bones and tips for using left overs and bulking out meals. The recipes are simple but hearty and I reckon if our diet was based on this there would be little obesity and our carbon footprint would be reduced! It includes delights such as rabbit brawn, giblet stuffing, ragout of tripe, poor mans goose and apple tapioca. I may try out some of the gentler ones and review the results, but in the meantime I thought I would share Elizabeth Craig's forthright foreward!
The longer I live, the more I appreciate simple food. It doesn't matter how cheap it is so long as it it well cooked. To me, a perfectly cooked Irish stew is more appetising than chaudfroid of mutton cutlets. I'd rather have baked apple than ice-cream coated with whipped cream and decorated spun sugar.
It's no good telling me that you can't afford to be a good cook. You can't afford not to be one. The less money you have to spend, the more you should know about cooking. If I had my way I'd teach every girl to make the most of every scrap of food. It's a nonsense to say a good cook is born, not made.