This is how Florence White describes her collection. It is so very much more than that. It is a fascinating, tantalising and oft times historically amusing journey through fine food and tradition. It’s a book that charts changing fashions and habits through stories of food gathered from villages and towns, north to south. The greatest change is marked by the passing of time from the book’s first publication in 1932, to now, 2013. Hardly eighty years later, many of these dishes read like chapters in a history book.
At a charming little bookstore on Lamb’s Conduit St, not far south of Coram’s Fields, where a city farm still thrives much as it has for at least a hundred years, my mother, a welcome visitor from home, found this book for me – a book she knew at once I would be fascinated by.
The bookstore is Persephone Books and the book is called GOOD THINGS IN ENGLAND.
Persephone says ‘Ever wondered how to cook Thomas Hardy’s frumenty, make Izaak Walton’s Minnow Tansies or pickle elder buds?’ asked the Sunday Telegraph. ‘Good Things in England is a collection of 853 regional recipes dating back to the C14th. First published in 1932, it was written by Florence White, the country’s first ever freelance food journalist, and, like all classic culinary works, it is a pleasure to read.’
Hundreds of pages of receipts, the olde word used by the author, collected from farmhouse and townhouse kitchens all over Britain, dating from 1399 to 1932 – Mrs Florence White’s mission? To prove by this collection, that English Cookery has nothing to fear from the oh-so-well-reputed French chefs. Her thesis is that historical, traditional, nourishing and skilful English Food is as ever to be proud of.
The book is filled with recipes you would never find in modern cookbooks. Even the ingredients and techniques are frequently out of mode. But you can still find them – suet and lard for pastries and puddings for instance. Whole wheaten flour for breads and frumenty.
Find the book for yourself here.
I’m determined to make these hearty, (sometimes) healthy traditional foods for my family. And in so doing, learn much more about historical English Cookery and its application into a modern diet.