I come from a large bustling Irish family and, as a result, spent my childhood creating random outfits with clothes handed down from my older cousins, which I think has contributed to my eclectic sense of dress today. Equally, I had cookbooks from my aunt and old ones from the library, and this has inspired a fondness and near obsession with gathering vintage cookbooks for my groaning cookshelf. One of my most prized possessions is my Grandmothers old cookbook. The problem is that, generally, they are difficult to come by today.
Our modern attitude that only current or new is valuable is really depressing so I was delighted to discover that Quadrille have started a new series of books – Classic Voices in Food – where they are publishing sometime forgotten but highly respected books. The first two are Modern Cooking for Private Families by Eliza Acton first published in 1845 and Madame Prunier’s Fish Cookery Book first published in 1938.
The books arrived bright and early with the postman at a startling 7.30am and I immediately tore into them. Bright and lovely hardcovers sheath hundreds of honest recipes, there is no pretentiousness here. They are such a lovely and interesting read.
They are also still very useful, if you discount the recipe for swan eggs of course. We don’t want the Queen hunting you down because you decided to indulge in some swan egg forcemeat. What if there was a baby swan inside too? Too many risks, not to mention the oft retold urban myth of a swan breaking your arm should risk stealing an egg too.
They really are a joy and an inspiration and I look forward to the next two, to be published in September. Boulestin’s Simple French Cooking for English Homes and The Gentle Art of Cooking by Leyel & Hartley, both of which were published in the 1920s. I recommend you try them out too.