I’ve just recently come back from travelling in time. It was an amazing experience really. I travelled back as far as 1836 and then yo-yo’d back and forth up to the present day. It was marvellous and fascinating and there wasn’t a DeLorean in sight.
No, I haven’t been out in the forest and made tea out of the various mushrooms I found growing there, I’ve actually been spending time at my wife’s Grandmother’s and that’s where she keeps the time machine. Well, I say time machine, I really mean her house. My wife’s Grandma who just turned 98 and is still going strong, has moved and gone to live with my wife’s parents. Her house needs selling so I happily volunteered to go and help prepare the house for sale. I started by knocking all the downstairs walls through, putting in a Jacuzzi by the TV, a home cinema theatre in the cupboard under the stairs, a bouncy castle in the front garden and turned the conservatory into a Romanesque health spa with sauna, steam room and full sized Olympic swimming pool right next to the bird bath. Well, that’s what I wanted to do but I was oddly vetoed on the matter for three main reasons:
1. We were only supposed to be tidying, rearranging furniture and maximising floor space,
2. It’s only a modest three bedroom terraced house with no room for a spa complex and;
3. The Olympic swimming pool won’t fit as there’s very little space between the bird bath and Geraniums as it is.
Anyway, one of the reasons I’ve always loved going to Grandma’s house is that she has such beautiful things; beautiful china tea sets and wonderful pieces of furniture still in perfect condition. I also love poring through the boxes and boxes of photo albums, (remember what a photo album looks like kids? No, I thought not), and seeing pictures of my wife aged five, all cute as a little button with her sun-kissed blond hair and baby teeth flashing through that innocent smile of hers. This time however, I was told to hurry up as I’d been wasting far too much time crying with laughter looking at these photos and, after nearly giving myself a hernia, reluctantly got back to the task at hand.
The biggest treasure trove for me however, lay in the kitchen. Underneath the counter in a cupboard, lay Grandma’s collection of cookery books. Lucky for me Grandma hardly threw anything away and kept with great care. I found a cookbook made by the Womens’ Institute in 1972 called ‘The All Purpose Cook Book – For People Living in Restricted Circumstances’, aimed at women who live on their own, are out camping, living on a boat, (that’s what it said, honest!) or have a small kitchen. It laid out menu ideas at the top of each page and had some recipes I’d never heard of before. Ever heard of ‘Viking Special’ – a mixture of bacon, celery, tomatoes and potatoes all mixed together with salad cream and laid upon lettuce leaves? Just the name itself makes me want to make it (a vegan version obviously) and serve it to my guests, washed down with bottles of Blue Nun while we talk about how great that new Swedish band ABBA are! Brilliant! Then of course there was the ‘Kenwood Cookbook’ from 1969. I know manufacturers still supply these and this cookbook you got for free when you bought a Kenwood kitchen appliance, like their ‘Kenwood Chef’ a leviathan of culinary brilliance, in fact it’s still one of the best mixers on the market. This book had over 400 recipes. Yes….400 recipes, very few pictures and not a single recipe without meat, fish, dairy or eggs. Under every recipe title, it told you what Kenwood ‘Chef’ attachment you would need but it also told you if you are going to need to use a can opener, potato peeler or even the refrigerator! I bet the recipe book you get with the new Kenwood ‘Chefs’ contain a lot more pictures with a lot less recipes and it would assume I knew where the fridge was, I already owned a potato peeler and all my cans of tomatoes have ring pulls on them.
The next two books however, was where I struck culinary gold. The oldest cookbook Grandma seems to possess is a book from 1931. It’s called “A Selection of Proved Recipes for Use with New-World – “Regulo”-Controlled Gas Cookers and Radiation Ovens” . This cookbook was published when the first temperature controlled gas ovens were invented. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this but it never occurred to me there never was a time when a temperature controlled oven didn’t exist! Can you imagine what a revolution that must have been for people at the time? A device which allowed you to actually control the heat of your oven and cook different foods at different temperatures and times? This book was another hefty piece of tree but unlike the Kenwood book published some 38 years later – this had a vegetarian section in it! Admittedly I think I found only one vegan recipe but for its time, it was progressive.
The final (and I think best) book took me a little further forward in time. It was issued by the Ministry of Food in November 1943 and was aimed at women, advising them on how to feed their families on rations during the Second World War. It was a fascinating read. It was matter-of-fact, straight to the point, easy to read and for me, a marvellously personal glimpse into such a well documented piece of world history. What struck me the most about it was that some sections of it were in colour. Not the pictures obviously, but the paper had printed lines of orange and green making it more striking to the eye and easier to read. It also told mothers to feed their children rendered fat as a source of energy as sugar was in such short supply. Not something any government department would recommend nowadays but bread and dripping was a staple for our grandparents’ diets!
When I got home, I took a look through my collection of cookbooks and was really quite astonished to see how different they were compared to ones from all those years ago. Book of today are themed, diet specific; they’re image driven with less recipes in and I love that. If you look at the best selling cookbooks of today, you will see they are personality driven, with the chef or restaurant being just as prominent and important as the recipes themselves. No-one wants a cookbook written by a corporations ‘Home Economics Department’ with hundreds of recipes you’re never going to use with no photos? I certainly don’t. But it does make me wonder: what will our cookbook look like in 80 years time and will our grandchildren be smiling at the primitive way we used to cook: “Look mum, Granddad used to read BOOKS to get his recipes from! How old is THAT?!”
Now I’ve been having great fun working on my own cookbook. I’ve been getting it ready to unleash upon you hungry herbivores and open-minded omnivores and I am now pleased to say:
Just click on the link above or the image of the book below and hey presto, you’ve just got yourself a spankingly good cookbook for absolutely nothing!
It’s called The Caper Tree’s ‘Tasting Menu’ and it’s an ebook collection of all the recipes I’ve posted on my blog, plus a few new and exclusive recipes just for you all.
I wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has followed and supported me with ‘The Caper Tree’ and I can’t think of a better way of doing that than giving you all something back in return. (I could give you all money as a thank you but I’m not rich and I’m not stupid!)
Please feel free to tell everyone that here is a free, animal-friendly cookbook with great recipes available for download. Spread the good word and pass it onto your friends, enemies, hell anyone you can think of that would appreciate this, it is totally free after all! The only thing I ask is if you reproduce any of the recipes or material, you mention The Caper Tree and Danny Vice-Holt (that’s me!) when you do it.
Once again, a big thank you to you all. I’m off now to work on my new cookbook which is due out later this year. (You’re going to have to pay for that one so make the most of the freebie while you can!)
‘Don’t be scared, it’s just food!’
The Caper Tree
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