Food In England by Dorothy Hartley

My desert island book is Food In England by Dorothy Hartley. I have mentioned it before here.
I first met this book when I was around 12 years old at the library. I was attracted immediately by Dorothy's fascinating and detailed illustrations. I borrowed it multiple times before eventually buying a cheap and badly edited (2 indexes and missing pages) paperback copy. Now I have a well thumbed and beloved hard back.



It was in this book that I first read about quinces.


Quinces and many more delightful and delicious things ~

Rumfustian, Bumpo and Spinster's blush - hot, fortifying drinks liberally laced with alcohol and spices.

Collier's Foots - no, not feet but they are feet shaped and made in pairs. A pasty for taking down the mine, filled with meat or bacon, onions and cheese.

Checky Pigs - a curiously shaped pasty from Leicestershire

Potato-Apple Cake (for an autumn tea) - A double-crust pie made of thick potato pastry with a filling of apple. When it is done you cut a lid from the top crust and quickly slip in slices of butter and spoonfuls of sugar to cover the hot apple. Pop the lid back on and put it back in the oven for a few minutes.

Egg and Apple Savoury or 'Marigold Eggs' - an apple custard tart, the custard flavoured with sage and marigold petals.

Rabbit Cup - cooked rabbit meat and mashed potato, seasoned and pressed into a buttered and breadcrumb-coated cup before being baked and turned out. A simple dish for a child or an invalid.

Nursery Apples - baked apples filled with brown sugar and baked until the sugar has become toffee.

Buttered Apple Dice - a dish of diced apples dropped in the sugar bowl and then fried in butter before being mixed with fried bread cubes. A dish I'd forgotten I'd read about in this book when I made something almost identical here.

There is a great deal more to this book than recipes. Food In England is a history book and Dorothy Hartley was a historian interested in how ordinary folk lived. In particular she was interested in how they fed themselves, how they cooked, preserved and managed their food supplies.

She tells us how a cottager's pig could feed a family for almost a whole year and how dramatically the law forbidding the keeping of a pig near a house changed their lives. She describes how self-sufficient a farm labourer in Fifeshire in the 1870 was when he was paid not only in money but in oatmeal and land to grow potatoes on. A family cow, a pig, some hens and a productive garden furnished all his family's needs. We learn how a household of young independent women working at office work in 1880s London managed their kitchen and their food budget. We see how a medieval cauldron was used (not the boiling soupy brew you may imagine) and how similar it was to the way canal folk cooked.

The food writer Elisabeth Luard has described Food In England as 'a plum-pudding of a book -stuffed with all manner of delicious things'. It is exactly that.

Here are some excerpts to tempt you.







above See how useful this book would be on a desert island





Below An example of Dorothy's beautiful writing.


Many of the recipes in this book are time consuming and probably unappealing to modern palates and sensibilities; lamb's tail pie, sheep's head mould or rook pie for example. There is plenty though, to tempt a modern cook. This recipe for creamed fish is not madly exciting perhaps but it is easy and comforting and as Dorothy says 'Good cooking is not elaboration - it is good simplicity'.


This method for cooking pork chops is nice and straightforward too.  Luckily I have both pork chops and apples in my kitchen.


We don't usually have such plain meals, but these simple chops went down a storm. There are leftover potatoes too which is always a good thing.





You can find out more about the book and its writer tomorrow evening on BBC4 at 9 pm. Lucy Worsley is a big fan of the book and has made a programme about it. Hurrah!, at last something worth watching on the telly. Details on her blog here.


Comments

  1. Oh that book looks so interesting!

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  2. As you say, something worth watching on TV. It looks a very interesting book, another for my wish list I think, thank you for showing us.

    My OH is useless at cooking pork chops, they are stiff as leather by the time he has finished, have you any tips on how to do it properly, please?

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    1. I don't do them very often, but today I followed the advice of Miss Hartley above and got the grill really hot (a clear fire)and did them about 10 mins on both sides. That might be too much for your taste but I like them quite chewy.

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  3. Well that's put me in the mood for dinner! And a fascinating book as well.

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  4. Ooh, thank you for the heads up Sue. The book is one of my Mum's favourites, I must make sure she knows too.

    Lovely post :)

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  5. I read Lucy Worsley's newspaper article about Dorothy Hartley at the weekend and immediately made a note to watch the programme as it looks so interesting.

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  6. Thanks for the tip - shall definitely be watching that. I'll be looking out for that book too. I could live quite happily in a little room like that one with the chap in his chair in front of the fire - love the couldoured engraving (?) on the cover too. I so agree with the phrase that "good cooking is not elaboration it is good simplicity" If the ingredients are top quality then they need no complicated cooking do they?

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    1. Exactly. I love that little room too, although I'd prefer not to have to go outside with my blanket.

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  7. It is hard to beat a good plain pork chop, I think - though this evening I have had baked salmon, mashed potatoes and peas which is also plain and also very delicious!

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  8. I know you're not a Downton fan, Sue ... but surely you're into Homeland! And there's a new series of The Killing coming up soon.
    I love pork chops but agree with Toffeeapple that sometimes they turn out a bit leathery. I blame the pig as the cook is always the same!

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    1. Homeland escaped me for some reason, but I know I would have liked it. Will catch it next time it's on. A new series of The Killing you say?

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    2. But couldn't you just shake Lucy W when she turns up her nose at that lovely brawn!

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  9. I think there might be a run on copies of this book! By the way, did you catch The Food Programme on lard?

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    1. Missed it Lucille -will catch up later.

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  10. What an interesting book! We'll be traveling across the pond to England, Wales and Scotland (my first trip ever!) Spring 2013 and can't wait to try English food. I love how the pancakes are rolled - if rolled here in The States they are crepes. Nothing like a good pork chop too. Your meal looks delicious!

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  11. Have you read 'Food in History' by Reay Tannahill? Really good.

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    1. I know of it Ann but I've never got around to reading it. Another one for my 'to read' pile!

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  12. The book sounds fascinating and it sounds like it will be an intersting TV programme too.

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  13. Sounds like a really interesting read.

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  14. Thanks so much for alerting me to Lucy and the DH programme!!

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  15. This is the sort of book that is so illuminating to read and get you to thinking in such a different attitude that you wish that you could be close friends with the author...
    Now I will go seeking myself a copy !!
    xoxo

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  16. oooh snow pancakes. if we get another awful winter I know what I shall be trying!

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  17. When I left home, I swore I'd never eat another pork chop. I used to hate anything pork-y and yet we were never allowed down from the table unless our plates were clean. I have to confess though, that that simple chop of yours looks good!
    The book looks fascinating. I recently thumbed through an old Marguerite Patten book at my Mum's and have been working on a post about it. I thought it was hilarious, to be honest!

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  18. How strange you should mention her and this book. Tonight, BBC4 at 9.00pm is showing a programme about both. It will be repeated on Thursday, 10.50pm - hope you manage to see it.

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    1. Read the last paragraph of my post ;)

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  19. Thanks for the nod about the Lucy Worsley programme: I've lost my copy of the Radio Times so I would have missed it. I know where my copy of Dorothy Hartley is though :)

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  20. Ooh, thanks for the 'head's up' - I do love Lucy Worsley! No doubt it would have caught my eye on the iplayer but now I have the anticipation as well ;-) Thank you.

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  21. Yes, thanks for the advance notice. I've read and enjoyed Lucy Worsley's books but never visited her website and I noticed that whilst working for English Heritage two of here favourite places were Bolsover Castle and Hardwick Old Hall. I went to school in Bolsover and won a prize from the civic society for my School's History Project on 'Bolsover Castle and it's earthworks' and always love a visit back there especially now it has had so much restoration work.
    Also, when our eldest 2 children were small we used Hardwick Hall gardens and the Old Hall as our garden/outdoor space. So you have sent me on a lovely trip down memory lane this morning.
    I've also noted with interest that Lucy will be giving a talk at the Scarborough Literature Festival 2013, I usually attend and will make special note to attend her talk. Thanks Sue

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  22. I find historical recipes quite fascinating, this book is going on my wish list and I'll be checking on the TV programme on i-player.

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  23. I know what to watch tomorrow night now - thank you.

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  24. This really reminds me of a couple of books we had to read through in home economics in the early 80's in school, I seem to remember they also showed a cow, or pig, and where all the cuts came from, fascinating stuff. We have a really old cooking encyclopedia, part cooking and food information, part recipes, still incredibly useful even now.

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  25. This is my kind of book--and I would buy one except that the list price on Amazon is $100.13!

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    1. Oh my! They are £15.40 from Amazon.co.uk (about $24). not sure what international shipping is but it would certainly be cheaper to buy from there. My Amazon password works on both Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

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  26. Oh Sue, I can see why you'd want this book on that desert island. Thank you for sharing so many of its pages with us...I was really able to get its "flavor."

    I am going to see if my marvelous library might have a copy ... its stacks are filled with treasures.

    xo

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  27. Not seen your blog before so hello from me, but also looking forward to the prog tonight - yes, at last, something decent to watch (of course, with footy on I shall be watching in the bedroom, cosily tucked up with our delicious new heated mattress cover - how has it taken me so many years to buy one? Why did no one tell me how wonderful they are before now?) Lucy Worsley is such an enthusiastic presenter of history I'm sure she will do justice to this wonderful book by Dorothy Hartley. However, I'd not want it as my desert island book - where would I find all the ingredients for the dishes?
    Margaret P

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    1. Hello Margaret. It's my desert island book in the same way Oliver Twist might be -for the enjoyment of reading it. This book does however have some practical information such as how to cook without an oven.

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  28. This looks to be a fantastically interesting book and will make a point of watching the programme on BBC4.

    I think the Potato-Apple Cake sounds particularly scrumptious!

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  29. Anonymous11:43 pm GMT

    I'm sure I gave you the hardback copy of Food in England in exchange for your paperback version. I didn't know you were so fond of it. I have The Countrymans England also by DRH and Thomas Tusser's Husbandry. I'ts quite funny in places.Have just watched the programe.Very enjoyable. ME

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  30. Damn, why am I reading this on Weds am - I think I might have enjoyed that programme. Thank goodness for iPlayer.

    That looks like a great book - the cauldron stuff is genius and I love the take on pancakes (food as social commentary is always interesting).

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  31. Anonymous9:11 am GMT

    I too enjoyed the program, I love watching good English food and gardenprograms and documentaries, like wartime Farm. That silage bread, that folk over in Europe had to eat instead of grass beats the tulipbulbs and sugarbeets of westHolland! But I have already be looking where I can order the book, it has to be a facsimil, not a book with only the recipes, but the drawings etc. too. I am a member of a small local historical society and was born 64 years ago on a very small farm, father had to work allday away to make money for getting through winter. I think brawn is what we call "hoofdkaas" ours was shredded more, and I think it is delicious. Fishcream also, good foodmemories from my youthyears and oh, the joy when mother came home with haddock from the market in town, festive like maybe Christmaspudding. Yesterday, before watching the program, I bought haddock, to revive fishcream and there are some quinces (about 20, the whole harvest of one tree, kindly handed over to me because the owner did not want to use them) in the hall, smelling like ah heaven? On the pork chop theme, I do not agree with the choppingof the fatty parts, leave them on while cooking and cut of later, because todays pigs have such lean meat these days and no, putting them in more fat in the pan does not help. It is interesting the book was published in 1955, because I surely have memories of much I saw in the BBC program going on around me till about 1958. Suddenly there were more then two (rich) people who owned a car and a thelephone in our 30 houses neighbourhood and horses were sold in favour of tractors. Those were surely not good old times, but for me they were happy times. Sorry this response got so long from the Netherlands north, I love your blog.Reina.

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    1. Thank you Reina. What a lovely long and interesting comment.

      Does hoofdkaas translate as 'head cheese'? That is what brawn is called in the US and I think the French call it fromage de tete.

      I am very envious of your quinces as I have none this year.

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  32. I love the idea of Insular English pancakes - I'm too lazy to make proper pancake batter, and the girls too impatient, so ours are always too small and fat to be insular (big mug of SR flour, same of milk, one egg) - but the idea of properly rolled up pancakes is rather appealing, especially now that I can think of them as inward-looking, brooding even, and insular. Might have to make some tonight. Must also track down book and do an i-player catch up.

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  33. Thank you for telling us about the programme and the book - I loved the former and just today the latter arrived from Amazon. Paperback was all I could afford but I am itching to sit down and get reading. I have flicked through and the diagrams are brilliant.

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