Collected recipes

Delight does not describe how I felt when I discovered a book of her recipes. Packed to the brim of notes and pieces from the newspaper, the whole lot was secured in characteristic untidiness with a large elastic band.

And so I set to work, taking off the band and gearing myself up for delving into what could only be a veritable treasure trove of delectable treats.

And I was so disappointed. Yes, you read that correctly. Disappointed. For a woman who didn’t like alcohol and particularly not in food, there were a mad number of recipes for boiled whiskey cakes. Strange that as I don’t remember her making a whiskey cake of any shape, form or cooking method. And a staggering amount of recipes for scallops. An unusual inclusion given that my mum was highly allergic to them! I wonder what my daughter will think when she finds my recipes after I pass!

Unfortunately, like many great home cooks, the recipes I want were in her head and never transferred to paper. Sure, why should she bother? She knew them all by heart. And of the ones she did pass on – from her mother’s head to her head to my head – I know how to make them but no exact measurements.

Mum’s notes in her perfect handwriting shows that she collected recipes from all over the world. And similarly to so many women of her generation, she had scraps of paper of recipes scribbled down from radio programmes plus newspaper and magazine recipes cut ever so neatly. On my travels through her epicurian compendium, I took out a few I remember her making with great fondness as well as a few that I’d like to try. I have marked these out with ‘(M)’ being Mum’s. There are a few ones that I passed on: ‘Sweet and Sour Beef Curry’, ‘Hamburger Pie’, ‘Meaty Barbequed Backbones’, ‘Banana and Salad Cream’ sandwich filler and a dozen recipes for chocolate biscuit cakes – each drier than the last! Recipes were also excluded which called for cups of tomato ketchup or oodles of crushed Cornflakes – neither of which my mother ever included in the fare she presented.

These recipes are really from a bygone era. It is not simply finding the imperial measurements or the baking instructions in Fahrenheit. It is the ‘Mrs X’ written at the top – from a time when friends were still formal in recording one another’s name.