While life itself is full of hit or miss days (like watching the corpulent opera singer slide off the bonnet of a car on stage - hit. Or stepping outside for a cigarette, then realizing firstly, that you quit smoking and, secondly it's pissing down with rain - miss.) there is one constant in my life that has never let me down, and that is the Good Housekeeping Cookery Compendium, 1955 edition. There is so much about this book that I love, the thousands of pictures, the style of presentation, the introductions to each section, the detail, Detail, DETAIL that makes each recipe seem achievable, however complicated it may look. The best thing? Hundreds upon hundreds of recipes for old-style cake, pies, puddings, deserts - oh, my goodness, my heart, my stomach, my weight!!
This particular edition is literally three books in one. Part 1: Basic Cookery, starts just like it did in my first cookery class in school - with cutting a grapefruit in half and serving it with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast. So totally idiot-proof, this book holds your hand and leads you through the simplest of meals with the most basic ingredients. While most of the meals are not for the modern palate (lard and beef dripping, anyone?), the first part is excellent as a foundation in cookery, telling the novice cook about shopping for food, cuts of meat, types of fish, food storage, how to use equipment, foundations of soups and sauces, and basic bread, cake and pastry making. On its own, this part is worth its' weight in gold.
Part 2, Picture Cookery, for the more adventurous cook, ramps up the techniques and attention to detail required for when "wifey" has to entertain her husband's boss. How to clean fish, prepare shell fish, joint poultry and rabbit, more soups, more sauces, jams, pickles and preserves and even more cake, it just gets better all the time. I made a Game Pie, using hot-water crust pastry, following the step-by-step pictorial guide that was so delicious, I ate the whole thing myself (sorry Studley). Plus, this section includes instruction on how to use a Pressure Cooker! (Scary things, but I feel confident I could handle one now.)
Part 3 - the best bit - is all about the cake making. This part goes through all the equipment, ingredients and techniques you need to make any kind of cake. Let me say that again - any kind of cake. Plain cakes, fruit cakes, jam cakes, buns, traybakes, biscuits, pastries, gateux, icing and sugarcraft, up to the big one: The Wedding Cake.
I cannot even begin to tell you about the deep joy I get from reproducing the food from this book, even from just turning the pages, looking at the pictures and admiring the font. I look at this book everyday, whether I choose to cook from it or not. Visitors to this country (and foreigners who have never visited) like to taunt us with the myth that British food is bad. These people are so easy to dismiss because they obviously don't know where or what to eat, but when it comes to "afters", I do believe the UK is the real deal. We are unbeatable, we are nonpareil, sine qua non, and this beautiful book is proof, if proof were needed.
I wish I had the pictures to show you. I wish you could smell, taste and appreciate the good old fashioned traditional British fayre that comes out of this book.
I wish you could see how much exercise I have to do to allow me to indulge myself the way I do (just kidding - although I do a Zumba class twice a week)!
While most of my diet is, in fact, clean, we do allow ourselves the odd indulgence of the baked goods variety, otherwise Studley is a very sulky boy.