Friday, 1 November 2013

Sentimental softie

Amongst the pile of books I rescued from a house clearance the other day, was a very old copy of Mrs Beeton's Family Cookery, with nearly 3000 practical recipes. It also has sections on how a housewife should look after her home either by herself or with the help of servants. Apparently Mrs Beeton's is the only cookery book to have survived two world wars, and generations of successful housewives have found this an invaluable source of information.

There isn't a date on the cover, or the inside of this book, but I guess it is pretty old. It's a small book which is 2.5 inches thick and has 896 pages. The advertisers in the back include Lea and Perrins Sauce, Foster Clark's Custard, Chivers Jellies, and Quaker Macaroni, most of them boasting over 100 years in business.

I've had a look through some of the first pages which deal with mainly how a house should be run, and some of it made me smile. Things have changed a lot since this was written. Let me quote a few lines. "Much is demanded of the housewife, in that she should be able to keep good-tempered, patient, and calm amid all the cares and worries of domestic life. In this way she will ensure a happy and contented home, and create a feeling of security and stability long remembered and appreciated by her children". I think a lot of these values went out the window a long time ago.

Under the heading of Daily Duties, it states, "Before breakfast - daily clean the dining room, lay the breakfast, and prepare the food for cooking. Wake the children and give them as much attention as their age requires. Cook and serve the breakfast, by which time all the members of the household should be down and ready. When the family is large, breakfast is apt to become a somewhat irregular meal, owing to various train times and engagements. However, the housewife who is wise will do everything in her power to encourage punctuality and simultaneous appearance".  Ha ha, a quick yell up the stairs, get out of your pit now, I think is what happens now.

On flicking through the recipes, I don't do recipes as you know, my food is made up as I go along, I came across this rather gruesome description on how you should prepare a calf's head for eating, accompanied by a picture of a head on a platter.
I will share the recipe with you, should you decide you want to have a go. So, first the INGREDIENTS.
A calf's head. 1lb of lean uncooked ham. 2 hard boiled eggs. 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley. Ground mace. Nutmeg. Salt and pepper. For the stock 1 or 2 onions. 1 carrot. Half a turnip. 1 strip of celery. A bouquet garni. 12 peppercorns.  
METHOD. Cut the head in half, take out the brains, dress and serve them with the tongue as a separate dish. Wash the head in several waters, and afterwards let it soak for 12 hours in salted water, which should be changed several times. Put into a saucepan with a handful of salt, cover with cold water and bring to the boil, then drain and wash well in cold water. Return to the pan, cover with cold water, boil, skim well, then add the prepared vegetables, bouquet garni, peppercorns, salt to taste, and cook gently for 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the bones can be easily removed. When the head is boned, spread it out on the table, season well, and distribute narrow strips of ham and slices of boiled egg evenly over the surface. Add more flavouring and roll up tightly and wrap and tie securely in a pudding cloth. Have the stock boiling in the saucepan, put in the head, and cook gently for about 2 hours. This is sufficient for 10 or more persons.
Well if I hadn't already been put off eating meat for life, I certainly would be after reading that. It sounds utterly revolting. I think these days a lot of meat eaters would rather get their flesh in neatly wrapped polystyrene packages from the supermarket. What you take home in your shopping bears little resemblance of the animal it came from. I think it should be compulsory for meat eaters to go and see for themselves how an animal is killed and butchered. What I can't understand is when the spring comes and the fluffy little lambs appear in the fields, everyone goes, aaahhhh, aren't they sweet, then stick a lambs leg in the oven and eat it. There are still a lot of carnivors about though, who will happily chop up every bit of an animal and serve it up. There is no room for sentiment if you eat meat. 
I am a sentimental softie, and proud of it. My lunch today was mushrooms in a garlic sauce, with spinach added to the pan, served on a bed of spinach, and a tomato. It was bloomin lovely.  
Have a nice weekend, it's raining here, filling up my water receptacles nicely. Hope it's better where you are. Toodle pip

28 comments:

  1. My grandma had the Mrs. Beetons Household Management. I would sit hours pouring over it as a child and into my early years of marriage. Wish I still had it. I see on Ebay they are going for £68 or more . Well worth the price.

    Sue R

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  2. Hi Ilona.
    Looks like you have found a little book of nostalgic treasure. I have a second addition of Mrs Beetons Household management. It dates back to 1932. The spine and the binding are falling to bits, but I still love to look at it from time to time to remind myself how easy a life we have nowadays with our modern appliances and kitchen gadgets. It never hurts to look back and admire the stamina and tenacity of kitchen maids and cooks of the former periods. I love and collect all types of old cookery books as well as some kitchen paraphernalia. It`s a lovely hobby to have. I`m now off to crochet some purple dish cloths as X-mas presents for my friend and neighbour.
    Your dinner does look lovely, by the way!

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  3. Thank you I will look forward to the bag.
    I hope this is the postal code I gave you. *** ***

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    1. Hi Debbie, yes it is. Bag on it's way.

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  4. Your lunch looks good but I'd add a handful of chickpeas for the protein, vitamins and minerals Chickpeas are so good for you!

    I love pottering around my home making it cosy and welcoming for my man. A home that's a joy to come home to. Well we don't want our menfolk to stray do we? Keep them happy at home and receive the love in return. It works around here anyway.

    Happy days, have a wonderful November

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  5. If everyone had to slaughter their own food...in an abattoir...how many carnivores would become vegetarian? A fair few I'm betting!
    Jane x

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  6. Hi there

    Completely with you, Ilona, in saying that people who eat meat should be shown where the produce comes. (horse meat scandal springs to mind!)

    Louise

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  7. Hi Ilona,
    I don't think that you could purchase a calf's head in Aldi, or any other supermarket. This takes me back and reminds me of my gran. When I was about 5 she served me a plate of sheep's brain plus teeth. I refused to eat it, she got angry, and I went hungry. Makes me cringe to this day. Must have been about 1950. Mrs Beeton has a case to answer I reckon.
    Best wishes
    Colin in Kent

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  8. Your lunch looks bloomin' lovely. Forget the boiled head, I'll have your lunch any day.
    Love from Mum
    xx

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  9. Being the skinflint that i am, i feel right at home with your blog and your like minded followers but it still upsets me when i think about the houseclearance post.
    It doesn't seem right skipping someones possessions but i cant get over the money wasting. £120 for a skip or thereabouts is bad enough, but it seems that a lot of the stuff was re-usable if not worth selling or giving away to someone who could make use. Thankfully you rescued some Ilona.
    Dave.

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  10. I love the mrs beeton books, my MIL has one she knows I'd love to get my hands on :-)

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  11. I have a very well thumbed copy of Mrs Beeton as well. you got a little treasure there I think!

    I agree with your comments about meat! I eat it, and yes have raised it and killed it in the past - and only buy it now, when I know it has had a good life and as quick and stress-less a death as is possible

    *Ducks down and waits for the flak!*

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  12. I've got a couple of similar books. I am not a very good housewife!

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  13. I've heard a lot about Mrs. Beeton's compendium of information and hope to someday come across an old copy to pore over. Meanwhile, though...I must respectfully suggest there is at least one other cookery book that survived 2 world wars. I grew up with Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking School Cookbook, which was first published in 1896. I now have my mother's copy (tattered and worn to a convincing degree!) which she received as a wedding present right after WWll. I think the most recent edition was printed in the 1990s. :)

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  14. And to think I was having a hard time with the ox tail soup my English friend has threatened me with when I visit. haha. No way in this world would I ever be able to sit down at a table with a cow's head cooked, displayed, and ready to eat. I shudder at the thought!

    I'm with Campfire...If this was still the norm i'd be the worst housewife EVER. :D

    JaG

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  15. I have my grandmother's copy dated 1919, I think, and, as a child, I used to chortle over a recipe for kangaroo tail soup. Ingredients: 1 tail......

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  16. Yikes!! Now we know where I'm a celeb got their ideas for the bush tucker trials. I am an unapologetic sentimental softie like you Ilona. My Hubby is a meat eater but hates it to look anything like the animal it came from....

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  17. Ilona - I never thought to stop and say thank you. I log onto your website almost everyday and so thoroughly enjoy it. At the same time I realize you keep plugging along daily trying to think up things to write about to keep all of us onlookers enthralled. And you succeed - fabulously. So; thank you. Thanks for the walking bits, the vegetarian menu blurbs, the kitty stuff (what would they do without you), your book reviews, frugal tips, garden ideas and monologue, late night buying trips to the grocery store for mark downs, suggestions for saving the planet (lots of those and all good!), exercise vids, points of view and opinions as well as how to make a bag!!! - they all count and they're all good and I hope there area lots of younger people out there that log on and think, "wow, that's a great idea. Now if I start that now in my 20's or 30's imagine where I'll be when..." Keep it up. I realize it's good for you to have an audience (and am continually amazed you have not done any advertising!!!) because we all need feed back in our lives and I (and I'm sure I can say 'we') appreciate your effort. Go girl.

    Yours - anonymous Debbie (ha ha)

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  18. Yikes! I had no idea Mrs. Beeton was so popular or so collected! I bought an abridged reproduction version at a cheapie online site, so please ignore my contact elsewhere. You're a good treasure hunter!

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  19. I have my grandmother and I think it must be about the same age, I also have a more modern edition for 1965 and it has microwaving instructions. I use the later book all the time

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  20. I bought a secong hand copy of Mrs B's Household management for £2.00 when I was newly married in 1971. I have often used and love looking at the photos of the folded serviettes; Although there is no date in mine I think it must be early 1930s. The whole section on Alcohol had been cut out obviously must have belonged to someone who was TT.
    My father had a copy that his mother had bought on her honeymoon in 1913 but when we cleared the house recently it had disappeared. Who got there first???
    Helen in France

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  21. I love Mrs Beeton, good reading when you are ill in bed and want something to dip into and still things in there applicable today though possibly not calf's head jelly. All the more amazing as Mrs B was the eldest of about 24 children!!! Really! and also she died very young, in her early twenties I believe, so not much time in which to be a housewife very sadly.

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  22. Does that mean if we buy cheap clothing from Primark and the like (new or second hand) we ought to go to the sweat shops where they are produced to see first hand the conditions in which the clothes are made? M J Norfolk

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    1. You can do what you like. My post was about eating animals.

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    2. I thought it was about taking responsibility for what you do whether it be the eating of animals or the way in which your clothes are produced, I guess a lot of people feel more revolted at the treatment of animals than they do with the treatment of people. M J Norfolk

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  23. Hello Ilona, are you ok? Its not like you to not post each day? am not complaining, just hope you are ok.

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    1. Yes, I am fine, thank you for asking. I had a day off, couldn't think of anything to say, ha ha.

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