Friday, 2 December 2016

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 69, ...... whose coming to dinner?

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

Foods from Meta, 1947
I have no idea whether Joe and Mary Ann regularly entertained people to dinner.

It wasn’t something that we did when I was growing up in London.  From memory apart from relatives at Christmas I can’t think of a seldom time when my parents had people around to share an evening meal.

I don’t suppose it was any different for Joe and Mary Ann but if they did I think they would have liked the two volumes of Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopaedia of Cooking first published in the USA in 1947.

In its time it was as essential as Mrs Beaton’s guide to household management and followed a tradition which can be traced back to the monthly periodicals issued during the 19th century and the stylish recipe books of the century before.

And likewise were replicated throughout the last century and into this one.

What they all had going for them was that they presented at a glance all you needed to know about food and how to prepare, cook and preserve a whole variety of different foods.

And looking back at them today is to experience a set of history lessons, because each book is of its time reflecting the attitudes and fashions of the day and the technology available.

So there are no microwave cookers in Meta Given’s books nor anything remotely approaching fast food.

Meta shows the way, 1947
Moreover the recopies use American measures and many of the foods listed would not have been available to Joe and Mary Ann in those post war years when there was still rationing.

Here are appetisers like Apple Tempters and Shrimp Cocktail, traditional main courses of liver and onions, broiled, fried or roast chicken and a host of puddings.

Some do tempt me but others like Italian Style Liver Marconi and Tomatoes followed by Baked Pears with Marshmallows I am happy to leave alone.

But they reflect that immediate post war period when the growing prosperity of the USA set it apart from Britain.

That said we did have Coronation Chicken that 1953 dish first served at the Queen’s Coronation meal which was a mixture of cold chicken with mayonnaise and curry.  It sounds quite tame today but against the backdrop of years of rationing I reckon it would have been pretty exotic.

Do it Yourself in the hedgerows, 1946
I have dipped into Meta Given but it is a world away from what I am comfortable with eating.

So my manual of choice is the Silver Spoon which first appeared in Italy in 1950 and like Meta was meant as the ultimate guide to food, cooking and all you wanted to know about both.

On balance it is an easier book to use but like most of us today the idea that one cook book fits all has I suspect had its day.

But I reckon Mary Ann might well have fallen back on a wonderful set of recipies, menus and food information issued by the Food Free Advice Service of the Ministry of Food..

In the years after the last world war, Britain continued to ration food and so it made sense for the Government to offer a free advice service on how to plan prepare and cook meals.

Mushroom Ketchup, 1946
This one is dated July 1946 and was designed to encourage people to gather their own food.
Hedgerow Harvest declared that “there is a wealth of wild foods in our hedgerows and fields for those who are within reach of the countryside” and provided recipes for Elderberry pudding, Blackberry or Elderberry Roly Poly, Blackberry or Elderberry Kissell and Blackberry or Elderberry Tart, along with suggestions for how to make pickles and chutneys, fruit bottling without sugar, how to preserve tomatoes and jam making.

And with the meadows largely still untouched by Corporation tipping there may have been plenty of food just ready for the picking.

Of course Mary Ann might just have made do with her own knowledge and supplemented by the shops on Beech Road.

Pictures; from rom Meta Givern’s Modern Encyclopaedia of Cooking, 1948, Chicago and  the Food Free Advice Service of the Ministry of Food, 1946,  in the collection of Vince Piggott

*The story of house,

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