Monday, 24 February 2014

Bits and Bobs

Today I'm going to be blogging about the various clippings found inside my Mother's copy of Step by Step Cookery. When I started to pull the pieces of magazine, newspaper and strangely enough Christmas Card from the book I was struck by just how many there were. Why, if my family find Marguerite and her recipes so wonderful, would we need quite so many recipes from other sources? There were a few things in there that were obvious - for example a hand written recipe for Bara Brith, a Welsh kind of fruit cake, which would have been unlikely to register highly on Marguerite Patten's list of recipes to include in her books. And there were a few that just seemed plain odd, or I wished weren't in there at all...

French Scalloped Potatoes, or as they've come to be known in my family "Yucky Potatoes", have been the bane of my existence since I was a young girl. There is only one recipe my Mum makes that I rate lower than "Yucky Potatoes" and that is the equally vomit inducing "Faggots and Peas". These are the foods of nightmares, the meals where I spent hours at the table being unable to leave until I'd finished. Luckily my Mum has all but stopped making these two food stuffs, but I was incredibly tempted to run the recipe through the shredder for old times sake. The other picture above is a recipe in Welsh. Why it's in my Mother's cookbook I really couldn't tell you - not one member of my family speaks Welsh to a standard higher than "Rydw i'n hoffi coffi!" (That's "I like coffee." for anyone interested.)

The recipe on the back of a Christmas Card really interested me. We've spoken a little in class about how recipes get shared and passed around but on the back of a greetings card is a way I hadn't even considered. Reading the recipe I'm pretty certain "Chicken Polyana" has never been served in my household. The instructions are concise and clearly written but by someone who didn't know my Mother's cooking habits that well since it uses degrees F/C as the cooking temperature - we've had gas cookers my whole life and we always will do. This method of sharing recipes is one Marguerite Patten would've been sure to like - although I'm not sure how she would've felt about using Ginger Ale in a Chicken dish.

One reason behind the multitude of clippings became increasingly clearer as I flicked through them - a large majority of the recipes were modern, exotic dishes that don't fit in with Marguerite Patten's ethos. This recipe for a "Speedy prawn curry and naan" (courtesy of the Asda Magazine from May 2009) was just one of many different curry recipes my Mother had collected over the years. I decided to have a look inside Step by Step Cookery to see whether Marguerite Patten had a similar recipe and was struck by just how few pages she dedicated to curried dishes. There is a full page that includes a simple Lamb curry recipe and a list of options for other meats and flavourings that could be used, as well as a small section on the previous page listing the accompaniments. For my generation Curry is a staple dish that has spread across the nation to be eaten in households everywhere, so it was interesting to see just how little weight they had for Marguerite Patten in the 1960s. I wonder if she was writing today whether this would have changed, or if her love for English food would've lasted.

One odd inclusion to the clippings was a recipe for Shortbread. It's clearly printed from an internet webpage and I was interested as to why my Mother would need to do this, since I knew full well that Marguerite Patten had a good recipe for it, having made it myself quite recently. Opening up to the page I read through them both side by side to try and spot the differences. One I noticed quickly is Marguerite's insistence that you "knead together with your fingers" vs. the clipping's permission to "Beat" and "Stir" your ingredients instead. Another clear difference is the metric/imperial divide that stretches across many cookbooks and recipes. Where Marguerite Patten says to 'Remove and allow to cool on tin." the clipping specifies that it must be chilled "for 20 minutes". I have always found the writing in Marguerite's cookery book avoids being patronizing and gives the benefit of the doubt that the reader would know how long something needs to cool. The 'Shortbread' recipe may be easier but it certainly doesn't teach you about cookery in the way Patten's 'Shortbread Biscuits' does, and that is why I think that my Mother was wrong to need a clipping - she should just have trusted in Marguerite as she usually does.

Rather than leave you with a tip from Marguerite Patten I'll direct you to one from the 'Shortbread' clipping:

Top Tip: Why not try adding cocoa powder for delicious chocolate shortbread?

Well, who would've thought it?!


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