FOR AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER way back in to my childhood there have been a collection of cookery books that have sat neatly, satisfying the space of two bookshelves in my parents’ house. These books are three generations old now and (as I hope to divulge over the next few months) bursting full of secrets that belonged to my Grandmother. They go back to a just post-WW2 era, full of forgotten recipes intended for lavish parties, dinners, summer picnics and feasts where people took time over meals together; made an event out of eating. Something too easily forgotten in this day and age.
In 2000 they were packed into a box and we moved house. Although they reside in the kitchen no longer, the books stake their claim to the shelves in the dining room. One evening I think I was looking for a some gravy recipe or some such thing that was probably the topic of conversation over a Sunday dinner. And so I picked one up.
After leafing through each one, however, I came across more than just printed pages. In every book were notes scrawled in handwriting I recognised from my birthday cards of old. My Grandmother had left her own recipes along with receipts from fishmongers and markets, letters from friends and newspaper cuttings.
They may look old and tatty. For the decade that I grew up with them it was probably why they never inspired me. Antiques don’t generally inspire teenagers. But as my interest in cooking grew, and more recently with the birth of this blog, I’ve come back to them with a new found curiosity and the recipes Elise (my Grandmother) took the effort to archive. It would be nice, I thought, to revive these recipes and relive her cooking.
So the project I have set myself in order to step out of my cookery comfort zone and experiment with new things is this: I will try to recreate the dishes she has written down, collated, circled, underlined and anything that looks like she might have touched upon in and amongst these books. There is a list of canapés to snack through on a prep sheet from one of her dinner parties (she was the hostess of many). There are cocktails requiring obscure spirits. There are lavish Mediterranean dishes, fishes, meats as well as the richest sounding deserts to create from scratch. Not a stock cube nor a metric measurement in sight, or a microwave. Thank God.
All I have to do is follow in her footsteps… and recalculate her aga timings for my own little oven.. ~