Sunday, November 30, 2008

maxims - the rest

Here they are... I feel quite giddy with excitement

- Only dry frying can be done without plenty of fat (unless you have a non-stick pan)
- Pour boiling water over frying fat to clarify it and set it aside for using again (sorry, what was that about boiling water and hot fat...sounds like a recipe for disaster)
- Fat used for frying fish should only be used again for that purpose ( fish fat short crust pastry then)
- Melt a teaspoon of fat in a frying=pan before putting in bacon (although see above re: non-stick pan)
- Put spare bread crusts in the oven to grate for breadcrumbs (waste not, want not)
- Make mint sauce two hours before serving it (just because okay?)
- For making fish sauce use some of the water in which the fish was boiled (makes sense)
- Pare potatoes thinly (don't want to miss out on all that skinny goodness)
- Salt or cold water makes scum to rise (because you don't want the scum to be low)
- Scum as it rises in boiling should be taken off (and shot!)
- No more water than is needed for gravy should be put in the pan (otherwise soggy gravy)
- Salt brings out flavours (what puts them back in again?)
- When using ketchup be sparing with salt (especially for your blood pressure)
- A handful of salt will clear the fire for grilling (next time you're at a camp out remember this)
- Salt meat should go in cold water and be brought slowly to the boil (nummy, meat in brine)
- Always save the liquor in which the joint of meat has boiled (i think it's good for stock)
- One egg well beaten is worth two not beaten (and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush)
- Boiled puddings should fill the basin (not your head instead)
- Put fresh water in the kettle to boil for tea, cocoa or coffee (at least it stops you from boiling a dry kettle)
- Make the tea directly the water boils (for a perfect cuppa)
- Pour nothing but water down the sink (saves for a smelly sinkhole)

So apparently that's the nub of this 640 page book... let's just keep this in mind for future reference

Saturday, November 29, 2008

some kitchen maxims

This is a summary of the advice given in All About Cookery which a novice should commit to memory so that she will understand the fundamental truths of cookery. A little like the maxim that "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." (except about cookery obviously)

(my annotations are in the case you couldn't tell)

- There is no work like early work (Get out of bed you lazy slacker)
- A good manager looks ahead (Keep your eye on the prize)
- Clear as you go: muddle makes more muddle (Clean up your junk)
- Not to wash plates and dishes soon after using makes work (No, you can't just let them dishes sit there in the sink)
- Spare neither borax nor hot water in washing up greasy articles (I said HOT water)
- Dirty saucepans filled with hot water begin to clean themselves (which is good...unless you are a cartoon mouse)
- Wash well a saucepan but clean a frying pan with a piece of bread (ummm, okay...?)
- Never put the handles of knives in hot water (because then you will have to hold them by the sharp bits...right?)
- Thrust an oniony knife into earth to take away the smell (just don't let the neighbours see or they'll wonder what you have buried there)
- Search for the insects in greens before putting them to soak (because no-one wants soggy just ruins their taste)
- Green vegetables should be boiled fast with the lid off (you hear me...lid off)
- Bread or vegetables left in stock turn it sour (so be careful when making soup and things)
- Roast meat should start in a hot oven (but shouldn't stay in the hot oven....)
- When pastry comes out of the oven, meat may go in ('cause pastry likes the hotness)
- Fish boiled should be done slowly with a little vinegar in the water (vinegar always goes well with fish..and chips)
- A spoonful of vinegar will set a poached egg (and you won't get all those floaty stringy bits)
- Water boils when it gallops, oil when it is still (so put your tenner on the looks like it goes faster)
- A stew boiled is a stew spoiled (actually, pretty good advice)
- Take away nearly all fat before making a stew (no-one wants a stodgy stew)
- Save all pieces of fat to melt down for frying or pastry (yum, fish fat short crust)

That's just the first half...have you go all these down?

The rest will follow tomorrow

Friday, November 28, 2008


Oh the glory of stainless steel. Glistening cleanliness and that all important labour saving and utility. Remind me to get my whole house done in it.

oh, for some decent help

No doubt that when Mrs Beeton first penned her housekeeping anthology, household help was cheap and plentiful.

And in 1923, in my revised edition, labour-saving in the home was a new feature because "The continued shortage of domestic labour and the high wages paid have forced many mistresses to take a much larger share in the work of the house themselves." (Note that it says a 'larger share' not 'do all of it by themselves'.) It still sounds like it was generally accepted that you would at least have a maid or a housekeeper to help you.

And, the America's Housekeeping Book, circa 1941, still mentions having a housekeeper as a reasonable way to manage your household duties and have enough time to tend to your children.

Heck, even Carol Brady had a housekeeper.

So, when did it go out of vogue to have help? Was it rising costs of wages? Or not being able to have live-in help?

Just think about how much easier it would be to have an extra person to do all your housework. All though, trying to manage a lazy, idle bint because that was all the help you could afford would be less fun.

Anyway, Mrs Beeton says that it is important to know how to do all the household chores, even if you don't do them yourself. That way you will know how long everything should take and you won't overload your help or leave them idle. Plus when you get a new girl you will be able to show her how to do all the things she's required to do.

I guess the moral of the story is, even if you don't have to do it yourself, you still have to know how to do. Inactivity is no excuse for inability.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

mmmm, tasteless soda

not only can I use "practically tasteless" bicarb soda... but I can also saving money by baking my own cakes just like the professionals do

Please explain, Mrs Beeton

Mrs Beeton (or one of the writers from whom she allegedly plagiarised) suggests that the daily ration of food for a man, doing moderate work, should be:-

1. Water - 22 Oz. Avoirdupois (sold by weight)
2. Albuminoids - 3 oz
3. Fats, starch, sugar, etc. - 14 oz
4. Salts - 1 oz

Totalling 40 oz.
For a woman, the same proportions, but 6 oz less.

Now here comes the confusing part.
Water is not only fluids consumed, but also the amounts contained in other foods, lettuce, onions, lean meat, wheat, etc.
Albuminoids are eggs, lean meat, fish, poultry, game, milk curd or cheese, gluten in flour, fibrine in oats, in beans peas and lentils.
Fat, starch and sugar refer to fats like butter, dripping, starches being mostly things high in carbs, bread, potatoes, rice, barley, cornflour, sage, tapioca. And sugars, obviously being sugar, treacle, etc. Which Mrs Beeton says "children can and do eat large quantities without convenience."
Salts are not only table salt, but other salt like potash salt in fruit and vegetables. Lime and iron are also sought after, as well as vitamins.

Now, the only thing I really understood from that section is the last line. "Moral - eat plenty of fresh vegetables."

Where's the food pyramid when you need it? No wonder it required a cook, kitchen maid and housewife to run a household, when they had to calculate all of that jargon to determine whether their husbands or masters were getting adequate nutriments.

After reading all that, I have a headache. I think I need a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The frontispiece

The front and the back of the book are filled with ads from the time. I shall post them so we'll all know the best soda or baking powders or relishes to use.

How old are you?

This was the question on my mind yesterday, as I avid read Mrs Beeton's tips and suggestions on The Art of Cookery, The Cook, The Kitchen, The Housewife, Marketing and Labour-Saving In the Home.

Mrs Beeton's first book was published in 1861. My copy is definitely not that old, plus All About Cookery is a derivative edition taken out of her Household Management book.

The front cover is olive green, with black writing, a sort of Art Deco column design with 3 stalks of embossed wheat. From my search of Google, it appears that this is a 1923 edition. These two copies look and sound very similar:,
Furthermore, the frequent references to the War, and the difficulty in obtaining household staff (as if having a maid, a cook and a porter were the most ordinary things in the world) suggested post-WWI.

So the next question is - where was it between 1923 and the Christmas in the late-40's when it was given to my nana? Was it given as a serious handbook for a new housewife? Or in jest, by Uncle Albert as a sly dig at my Nana's skills? Or as a gift of something Aunt Blank had used and found to be very useful?
I guess I will never know for sure as my Nana passed away a few years ago, and Grandad doesn't know very much about it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

From the back of my cupboard

to the front of my mind...

Last night at my parent's house whilst looking through the cookery books I came across Mrs Beeton's All About Cookery. It was my nana's book, given to her one Christmas, allegedly by Uncle Albert, with the inscription on the back of the gift tag for her to "don't kill Perc off with the enclosed".

This was the first time I crossed paths with Mrs Beeton but considering my developing passion for vintage housewifery it is surprising that I had not come across her before. According to Wikipedia, which is the font of all knowledge, she is "one of the most famous cookery writers in history."

I am endeavouring to get to know her further and explore the knoweldge that she imparted to housewives for almost 100 years...