Exposed by a Lifetime’s Recipe Collection…
Applying the ‘sparks joy’ criteria has continued overtime throughout the weekend. I am still decluttering, obsessively, focussing for the minute on a lifetime’s worth of ‘favourite’ recipes – see bird’s eye view below of a tiny selection. I am sure even Marie Kondo would be slightly impressed.
It’s not only my recipes, either. My mother, Rachel Hall, was a fantastic cook and she too kept all her favourites, albeit in a rather more organised fashion than mine. There is one in her collection, painstakingly written out by our African cook which I wil need help deciphering. Is there anyone out there that can tranlsate? I can make out one or two words.
I was also delighted to find her Treasure Trove recipe, for sausages – she often used hog’s pudding – baked in bread. Her grandchildren all absolutely loved these. I’ll pass the recipe on if anyone wants it and can’t read this little thumbnail – although these days not so many of us make our own bread, as our mother did, every day.
I also have Aunt Edna’s collection. A lot of hers are actually wartime ones, so less useful these days is a recipe for mayonnaise thickened with flour.
I’m lucky enough also to have some recipes of my grandmother, Granny Hall (great granny to the next generation and great great to the little ones) although hers are all beautifully handwritten in a leather bound notebook so no sorting needed there. Lots of things like butter and cream that we have – until recently anyway – been taught to fear. I gather now they are ‘a good thing’.
Many of my old favourites are horribly passé. It’s been strangely emotional, chucking out bin bags full of recipes that at one stage I was keen to keep. Fashions and tastes have changed. When I first started cooking, tinned ingredients were used a lot, and things like Surprise Peas – does anyone remember those? They were freeze dried, and at the time we thought they were wonderful; indeed, they were such an improvement on the ghastly tinned peas which we’d had to rely upon throughout most of the year.
I came across a much-used recipe for Black Forest Gateau, which I shall definitely resurrect! Why has that become so despised? As have Prawn Cocktails which I still secretly love… Anyway, I know which will be my next party pud, any possible guests be warmed!
I can’t resist sharing a full page ad for cigarettes featured in one recipe selection I’ve kept all these years, in the hope that the PC police won’t come to get me. That’s another thing that dates my recipe collection, not that I personally have ever been a smoker. And note the price…
It gets worse. It’s not only that food fashions date one. According to the November Sunday Times food magazine the food one eats and therefore the recipes one follows clearly represent which ‘social subset’ one belongs to. Your favourite chef indicates exactly where you sit, socially.
Well, my recipes start off devotedly following Katie Stewart, whose recipes I still respect. Then for a brief spell Josceline Dimbleby who introduced a bit of glamour with the influence of her eastern travels. As did, in a more down to earth way, Elizabeth David. None of these – all far too historic – are mentioned in the article.
Then, especially having an Aga, I have devotedly followed Mary Berry, who never, ever lets you down. Her recipes are always delicious, and they always work. Even now without an Aga, I still regularly refer to her.
According to the article, this suggests one is rather unimaginative, that one makes ‘horrible rice, and delicious jam’. I dispute all that!!
For a long time, influenced no doubt by a childhood in Africa, a spell living in India and also the delicious multi-cultural food we’ve enjoyed with Sara in Australia, we have veered towards ‘interesting’, Middle-Eastern type flavours, and recently I have loved everything I’ve tried of Yotam Ottolenghi.
However, be warned: to be a fan of Ottolenghi is potentially disastrous according to the Sunday Times article. Apparently his followers all inevitably over-spend on exotic ingredients, over-try to impress, so any evening spent hosting friends invariably ends with a disastrous row with one’s husband… Perhaps I’m too lazy or too mean, but so far that has not happened to us.
The final paradox is, that with all this concentration on recipes, I have barely found the time to actually cook anything recently…