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Be-ro guide to home baking

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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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2 comments on “Be-ro guide to home baking

  1. January 23, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    FABULOUS post! And thanks for adding it to my Sepia Saturday link, I am starting it again in 2013!

    • January 24, 2013 at 8:32 am

      Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed. Love your blog btw x

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