Thursday, 6 May 2010

Persephone Reading Week : Two recipe books

Most of the posts we've had this week have unsurprisingly featured the novels from the Persephone list. So I thought I'd redress that by writing about two of the recipe books which were among the last Persephone titles that I had left to read. Whilst you can't "read" recipe books in the same way as fiction or biography or even poetry, I hugely enjoy browsing through recipe books for inspiration of things to make and often just to look at the pictures.

Good things in England (Florence White)
This recipe book is a marvellous collection of 853 English recipes, spanning 5 centures (the earliest is from the 14th century) and almost all of the regions to provide what White describes as "a practical cookery book for everyday use". As someone predominantly interested in baking,
I was particularly taken with the section entitled "homemade bread, huffkins, wiggs, oatcakes etc" - I hadn't heard of a huffkin or a wigg before. The former comes from Kent and is a sort of flat yeast cake, a wigg is a slightly sweetened yeast bun. The regional specialities were also fascinating - there were two completely different recipes for Banbury cakes. I also came across a recipe for Deddington Pudden Pie - Deddington is a small village between where I live and Banbury where a friend is shortly to become curate; I have told him that this recipe which was "originally made for the Deddington Fair on November 22nd known as "Pudden Pie Fair", and is essentially a custard containing currants filling a puff pastry case should feature on his first dinner party there.

Plats du jour (Patience Grey and Primrose Boyd)
This book, first published in 1957, led the way in introducing the English to French cookery. Written at a time when the English were still suffering from the memories of wartime rationing, recipes that I make all the time such as pasta, pizza and risotto were extremely novel. It was difficult too to source the necessary ingredients - there's a chapter on storecupboard ingredients which suggests making trips to Soho to buy them - irrelevant now that our supermarkets are so well stocked but a definite mark of the 1950s.


  1. ooh I love the sound of the first book. I could really get into making some of these old style recipes.

  2. Interesting! How nice that you were able to share that tradition with your friend who will be curate.

  3. The Mrs Rundell cookbook thrilled me way more than I was expecting so I'm intrigued by the Good Things in England book. No doubt there's more ideas of things to encase in aspic...blech!

  4. I rarely experiment with cooking but own many recipe books which I just love to read! Good Things In England sounds fascinating.

  5. How interesting! I especially like the endpaper of Plats du jour!

  6. Thank you for this. I quite enjoy cookery 'primary sources' and they do have relevance to my activity in the kitchen sometimes. Recently I made marmalade with the help of historic recipes - is good to understand the history and 'anatomy' of a particular dish and make modern variations from there.


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