12 May 2014
Today I am going to London to the Institute of Making, to take part in a workshop for postgraduate researchers, entitled ‘Restoration’. We have been asked to bring with us a broken book, one in need of restoration. I have brought three such books with me: two belonged to my grandmother and one belonged to her sister, my great aunt. The one I am hoping to work on this afternoon is my grandmother’s handwritten recipe book, dated from April 15th 1939, and with her maiden name, Vera Illingworth, inscribed into it in that familiar rounded yet somewhat spidery handwriting – the handwriting of an infant school teacher. She would have been almost 24 when she started writing in here, and I wonder if it is some sort of preparation for marriage and setting up home, having to use lots of recipes as she would have cooked every day. I wonder whether she wrote it with her own mother, perhaps using that tried and tested Yorkshire cooking of mother.
It is a wonderful document of social history in itself. The first recipe is for ‘mock cream’ – perhaps the real thing being unavailable during the war years? A white roux sauce, with extra caster sugar and vanilla essence. I might try making it. The pages are covered in blots and splodges of ingredients, and the edging of the pages brown with grease from daily use and handling. Corn flour pudding, egg cutlets, and in another’s handwriting, rasin loaf, rice cake, lemon cake with a strange statement “They are called Lemon fingers” and then Granny’s own writing, ‘you “barmy beggar”‘!! No idea what this means or why it is in here in quotation marks. Some recipes follow from Mrs McMillan, whoever she was, including Wartime Steamed Pudding, made with self raising flour, suet, sugar, ginger, milk and vinegar. Sounds revolting. But also are Granny’s jam recipes – delicious and ones to remember to use – raspberry, plum and damson, strawberry, blackberry jelly, chutney, gooseberry. What is listed as Fruit Mousse, with an originator Aunty Roebuck (who I think kept chickens at Green Moor), is what Granny often made: I never really liked this combination of jelly and evaporated milk. And her delicious ginger biscuits too. Must make a batch of these. They are gorgeous and she always seemed to have a freshly baked tinful.
Behind the recipes are traces of other notes, additions in l.s.d. – no idea how to do such sums these days. Also inserted are cut out recipes from labels and magazines.
And as the book progresses, I think I recognised my mother’s writing – perhaps as a school girl, we have Aunty Marion’s sandwhich (sic) and Mrs Bond’s chocolate buns.
The back pages have a non recipe – the instructions for knitting a vest, followed by the months in which to sow, and how far apart to sow, various vegetables.
I now wonder, having read through while sitting on the train, whether the book actually started during Granny’s time training to be a teacher in Hull. I think this makes sense – it might be her domestic education notes perhaps, which she continued adding to over the next 30 years or so? Although I don’t think the dates tally, as she must have been younger than 24 when she did her teacher training. So perhaps my earlier thoughts, that it was just her recipe book, are more accurate. My mother might know.