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Heirlooms: 1950s vegetarian recipes

Hello much-neglected blog, I have news to share. In brief, I got married and a magazine column. I am also hosting a pop-up on Saturday as part of Lewes OctoberFeast, the annual food festival I help to organise and promote. With so much to witter on about I thought I’d slip back into the habit obliquely with a curious article transcribed from my grandma’s heirloom recipe book. It features two promising recipes for thrifty vegetarian main courses, and some interesting commentary on what level of culinary mastery a working housewife should aim for.

Joad and Cooking

SIR C.E.M. Joad in “Meatless Musings” is unduly harsh over “the culinary habits of the Lancashire working class.” He ignores the long hours of drudgery in the cotton mill that made a robot of the “housewife.”

Once outside the mill, hungry bodies wanted quickly rehumanising. The pea and pie shop, pastrycook, and fish and chip shop met the need. Their trade dovetailed into a system that never meant women to be anything but “operatives.” They might have caught up on their cookery during times of unemployment, but then there was no food to cook.

I doubt if the French, class for class, do more home cooking than the English, or do it any better. With far less meat at their disposal than we had, they treat vegetables with greater respect. The English cut bread and butter with unsurpassable skill. It is the differences that are so agreeable. Surprisingly, Joad seems to resent them. He wants a “good plain cook” to halve an aubergine lengthwise, excavate it, sauté it, stuff the half shells with a mixture of saffron-flavoured cooked rice, aubergine pulp, beaten egg, garlic, herbs, spices and seasonings, sprinkle grated cheese over, dust with fine breadcrumbs, top with more cheese, dot with butter, then brown under the griller, and serve it forth as one of many courses. The man expects too much.

I am with him in his plea for sound guidance on food and cooking during the present meal shortage. But the fresh vegetables which he seems to like almost as much as I do, being poor in protein, cannot satisfy those who crave for meat which is rich in protein, cheese, with more protein than meat, eggs, milk, almonds, walnuts, peanuts(!), beans, peas, lentils are good alternative protein foods. For substantial savoury dishes you must prepare them according to good recipes.

But any plain cook can make delicious “meaty” Lentil Roast by simmering 8oz washed red lentils in ½ pint water for 20 minutes, then mixing them with 1 large cup fried, chopped onions, 1 egg, 6oz finely diced cheese, 1 grated clove garlic, 1 cup breadcrumbs, 1 tsp salt, a good dash of pepper and nutmeg, and baking the mixture 2 inches deep in a greased pie dish for 30 minutes in a moderate oven, top shelf gas No. 4 or 350 deg. F. Serve it with Yorkshire pudding, gravy, new potatoes with just a spot of real butter melting among them, carrot fritters, and quickly cooked cabbage. Lancashire Billberry Pie with cream should follow.

Ivan Baker

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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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