A guest post by Pam R
The Swinging Sixties? It seems like a very long time ago now. What do I remember about food and cooking then? I raid my extensive cookery book collection to retrieve the few books I remember using at that time. Good Housekeeping, (good for everything) Robert Carrier (perfect for French Apple Tart).
I need to find the books and check the pages for sticky spots. I still regularly use Good Housekeeping (I made a bread pudding last week), but I made my last French Apple Tart decades ago. A pastry crust, filled with pureed apple and brandy, topped with overlapping concentric slices of apples and brushed with melted butter and dusted with sugar. Why did I ever stop making this delicious dessert? I find the book, notice the name written inside the front cover – one I haven’t used for many years – and find a telltale sticky splodge in the middle of the recipe Carrier called Brandied Apple Tart.
I had to learn to cook in the 60’s. My mother died after a long illness and my sister, and I used to take turns to cook for our Father. We cooked what mum had cooked, but hadn’t had time to teach us. Stews and casseroles mainly, and roasts. My sister’s efforts one evening to recreate mum’s oxtail stew resulted in a very tasty meal indeed: instead of using half a garlic clove she used half a garlic bulb. A very different experience and one we didn’t repeat! Hearts stuffed with sage and onion stuffing were more successful and a delicious autumn casserole of rabbit, prunes and apple. Dad was always very reluctant to eat rabbit as he recalled that in the war he ate enough to last a lifetime. Our grandmother’s dessert recipes also featured. A large Yorkshire pudding made with or without the addition of currents served with golden syrup, milky rice pudding made on the stovetop, again with the addition of currents and a beautiful creamy concoction of vermicelli, milk and sugar, made in a saucepan on the stovetop and stirred for at least 20 minutes until very thick.
That name again on the title page of Good Housekeeping brings back memories I would rather forget of my brief and unsuccessful first marriage. But back to the book. I have often thought about which of my many hundred cookery books I couldn’t do without and I think this one leads even the saintly Delia’s original Basic Cookery Course, which followed almost two decades later. Within the now torn and tatty covers of my food ‘bible’ are wonderful treats. My favourite soup of the time, Crème Dubarry, a cauliflower soup made just with cauliflower, milk, cream, stock and a fine grating of nutmeg. It tastes amazing, and guests could never guess the ingredients. It was a very long time before I would make cauliflower soup any other way. The watercress soup I was making when the lid came off the liquidiser also featured within the pages of this inspirational book. Goulash and beef stroganoff, coq au vin and a myriad of other delicious chicken recipes. I made them all. It taught me how to roast meat: the correct oven temperature and the number of minutes per pound. I might look to Delia for her Morello cherry sauce to serve with roast duck but still first look to Good Housekeeping for instructions on how to cook the bird. My book falls open at the pages for sponge pudding and Victoria sponge. My speciality coffee and walnut cake came from here. It contains all the basic recipes for jam: rhubarb and ginger I remember well.
Who else inspired me in the sixties? Certainly Fanny Craddock, Robert Carrier and Grahame Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet. I have many of Elizabeth David’s books now, but I discovered her much later. I still have a couple of Fanny’s books, but these were seldom used then and are never used now.
The Galloping Gourmet deserves further scrutiny. Brief research on his 1968 TV series revealed the quite startling recipes he cooked. Lamb Apollo, Eels on Toast, Crème Chatelaine or Flambéed Rum Babas anyone? Or what about Herr Kerr’s Torte, Crema de Tamate Com Oro, Feinschmeckerrole, Filet Van Zeetong Nerleoise, Beer and Rump Pot Roast? Two remaining recipes I both know, remember and made. Gateau St Honore and Treacle Tart. What a man. I understand he went on to work on healthier and more simple fare.
What did we drink with all this fantastic food in the 60s? I remember my favourite alcoholic drink was sweet Martini. If we went to visit our Uncle John in Epsom he gave us Port and lemon. The wine I remember from the decade was sweet sauterne. Does Baby Cham count? I think Blue Nun came later. We always had plenty in the drinks cupboard at home. Brandy, green and yellow Chartreuse, Port and the usual spirits. One Sunday my sister decided to make pears in brandy (no doubt encouraged by Mr Kerr). Dad enjoyed them but was much put out after enquiring what brandy she’d used realised it was his bottle of vintage 33-year-old brandy she had emptied. My sister’s retort was simply if it was that old, perhaps it was time he got some new. I don’t remember ever having them a second time.
It is fitting to note my Father’s contribution to my 60’s food experience. He was a great fan of Welsh Rarebit. He made it up as he went along but always used our small, battered aluminium milk saucepan to make it in. Grated cheddar cheese, mustard, milk, Worcestershire sauce and some beer were added as he stood stirring with a wooden spoon and my sister and I made the toast. He also favoured soft roes on toast: tinned roes drained and dusted with flour and a smattering of cayenne pepper and fried lightly in butter. These were what Sunday teas were made of.
The 60s for me started with cooking at home with my twin sister and my Father and ended with my first experience as a young wife, entertaining friends and family with much learned in between. I started cooking because I had to but soon began to enjoy the task. I always believed if you can read, you can cook, it just takes concentration and a bit of effort. So if I went on to the fabled Desert Island and had only one cookbook to take along, it would have to be the great Good Housekeeping’s Cookery book, completely revised in 1963. Happy cooking!