My aunt Sarah lent me this thirteenth edition of the Be-ro recipe book that her grandmother used in the thirties, and I couldn’t resist finding out more about it. Turns out, the Be-ro cookbook is now in its 41st edition, so I don’t know how knowledge of it has slipped by me all these years.
The Be-ro cookbook was first published in 1923, as part of the Newcastle-based food manufacturer’s bid to popularise the use of their self-raising flour, what they call, ‘The ideal flour for the slow amateur’.
The cookbook contains plenty of recipes to ‘feed hungry families on a budget,’ and each cover features a different Northern lassy, known collectively as ‘Miss Be-ro’. As well as the quick, easy, but badly illustrated recipes, the book also contains plenty of advice to women, some of which sounds worthy of inclusion in today’s Femail:
The woman who can cook well and bake well has every reason and every right to be proud of her cooking. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred she has a happy home, because good cooking means good food, and good food means good health.
The progressive Be-ro marketing campaign also involved staged exhibitions, where freshly baked cakes and pastries were sold to visitors for a shilling and teenage girls demonstrated ‘Be-ro home baking’. It seems the longstanding success of the brand may have been helped by their focus on the mother-daughter bond and the brand’s attempts, through marketing, to create a Be-ro infused nostalgia that would pass from generation to generation.
The Be-ro cookbook is peppered with box-outs with evocative titles like ‘playing at houses,’ and ‘a budding housewife,’ encouraging mothers to spend more time with their daughters in the kitchen. The Be-ro message is clear:
The mother who allows her little daughters to “help her” in the kitchen on baking days may find them somewhat of a nuisance at first, but if she will only encourage them by kindly and patient example to learn the rudiments of cooking, they will become a great comfort and help to her when they grow older.
The company’s clever marketing soon made Be-ro the ‘best known flour in the North’, and the brand has lasted too. From its origins as Bells Royal in 1875, Be-ro is now owned by Premier Foods. The cookbook has sold over 38 million copies and its 41st edition was published in 2011.
Unsurprisingly, I’m not the only blogger to take an interest in Be-ro. Karen Burns-Booth of Lavender & Lovage has even set herself the challenge of baking her way through eighty-years worth of Be-ro recipes, an epic cook-a-thon reminiscent to that of Julie Powell in Julie and Julia.
Some of the recipes, like Be-ro Milk Fadge made with just 1lb flour, 1tsp salt, 2 oz lard and half pint of milk, leave me a little cold, but Sarah, who is a great cook, assures me that the Be-ro recipes are ‘simple and good.’
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About Chloe King
I'm a freelance writer, designer and webby type. I live with my husband and daughter in the south of England. I like to cook and can throw a good party.
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