Fighter pilot, Royal Navy 1945, Hydrographer Iraq 1947-52 India 1952-53, Canadian Hydrographic Arctic explorer 1953-1960, Writer-producer Canadian National Film Board 1961-72, Freelance journalist, audio-visual producer 1972-2009, National Press Club of Canada 1961 - 2006

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gentleman’s Literary Section

A rather belated review

of a really wonderful 62-year-old book:

Happily linking nostalgic memories of my active younger days with a still rampant and demanding carnal appetite I must confess to avidly and repeatedly assuaging my physical cravings by intently studying a well- illustrated 850-page book dealing in extreme detail with fullfilling the animal lust for life that has been uppermost in the minds of men, and women, since the very dawn of history.

This hefty, detailed tome, never far from tempting my salivating mind, lips and eyes, was published in 1948.

I refer naturally to:

Good Housekeeping’s Cookery Book.

For me this large volume is a never-ending read. Lyrically full of lauding for lard and suet and quite measurably non metric, it is always close to my hand, to be read almost daily for assistance in my culinary creations or just for purely innocent reading enjoyment. I have had it by my side for decades, during my five years aboard my small survey vessel in Iraq and the Persian Gulf, and then brought over to Canada from UK in 1953 for duty during my years in the Arctic. Today, as always, I am constantly consulting it between dark periods of musing on the state of the world and happily attending to my tankards of ale and tobacco pipes out on my sun deck.

For on every pristine page there is yet a metaphorically - scented reminder of times past, of former kitchen terminology and classical nomenclature for ingredients—all steeply reminiscent of wartime Britain. And all still valid, or even more so in practical terms, as when the pages were typeset by J.W. Vernon & Co. Ltd, St Albans, Hertfordshire, near London, long ago.

Scores of advertisements set throughout the book reflect the tenor of the times, remarking on still lingering wartime scarcities and shortages, but also hinting how increasing availability of materials now meant eager manufacturers could produce more of their wares for sale.

Example: back then in 1948, Geo. Fowler, Lee & Co., Ltd. offered their cooking wares thusly:

By Appointment

Suppliers of Fruit Preserving Appliances to H.M. King George VI.

(Wow! Look at that. I never knew before old KGVI was an avid DIY jam maker, or perhaps a pickled-onion hobbyist),

and stated in their advertisement that:

“Shortages, substitutes and waste make craftsmanship, efficiency and improvements more valued...”

Also in this wonderful book there are lots of classical Brand-Name ads for Oxo, custard powder, furniture polish, etc. Like the colourful one above by the Country Market people:

Yep, this ad epitomizes how well we knew how to live it up in those frugal days. Just get all togged up in your dinner jacket and black tie with your wife in her finest evening dress and jewellery, sit around the dining table with some of your well-to-do friends — and get stuck into a can of high-class peas.

But all-in-all this is the universal cook book, encompassing all other lesser cook books published prior to its issuance, all those since, and all those ensuing in future. It was and is the cookery book supreme.


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