Charlie Parker, Penguin and foodie, explores the notion of nostalgic dishes, “vintage food” and some rather lovely old cookbooks in the second of our Penguin Cooks series. Bon appétit.
There is something to be said about the nature of a recipe. It can become a family heirloom – passed down from generation-to-generation. Sometimes it’s an object of pride – “no-one
can make it like my grandmother makes it”. Other times an object of awe – as in the awe experienced when attempting to make one of Adriano Zumbo’s macaron recipes.
I recently stumbled upon my Great Nan’s recipe notebook – dog-eared and stained. It contained cuttings of classic recipes such as ‘Kidney and bacon bake’ and ‘Lamb’s tongues in cider’. This particular heirloom, along with my Nan’s vintage Raleigh, is something I will treasure forever.
My partner also has his mum’s recipe notebook from which we get wonderful North American classics such as pancakes and Ukrainian classics like beet borscht. These enter the canon of our weekly cooking, and get their own place in our recipe books (with additions and tweaks that make them our own).
All this nostalgia got me thinking about “vintage food”: the garishly photographed recipe books of the 60s, tattered old preserves books, old French cooking books. All relevant again and making their way onto foodie bookshelves and blogs in their droves, Julia Childs and Elizabeth David household names once more. I remember when I was first introduced to Julia Childs via YouTube – “the gateway to French soufflés and cakes” indeed – what a revelation!
Here are a few blog posts that have praised some vintage recipes, taken from Penguin cookbooks. Firstly, we dip into The Pauper’s Cookbook by Jocasta Innes with posts from That Lefty Food Blog (dealing mainly with soups) and The Vintage Cookbook Trials (also, incidentally, soup lovers).
Make, do and mend culture translates into food – people are pickling, canning and jamming. It seems to be less about making food last longer and go further than about learning a new skill, but then perhaps many of those city-dwelling cooks are saving cash by stocking up their pickle cupboards ready for the year to come.
It probably says something about “vintage food” culture that Penguin published the Great Food Series in 2011 – and I have to say, along with the second hand Elizabeth David books, this collection is sitting proudly on the shelf at home.
My next vintage recipe to try? Well it’s a classic my Nan used to make all the time: blancmange with floating orange segments.