Saturday, 6 September 2008

Thrifty cooking

Reading an article in the Times yesterday, I discovered that Virago have re-published Katherine Whitehorn's Cooking in a Bedsitter, including a recipe from it called frying pan pizza. I have owned a by now stained, dog-eared and falling apart copy of the Penguin paperback, published in 1963. I bought it when I was a student in Manchester in 1966 or 67, when I was living in the kind of bedsitters she describes, with often very inadequate cooking facilities. The food at student canteens was pretty dire , too, which led me to cook for myself. My mother fortunately was a good cook, and used to tell me and my sister how she prepared the dish we were about to eat for supper or Sunday lunch. Domestic science was not inspiringly taught at either of the grammar schools I attended in the 60's, unless you were prepared to take the subject at O or A level. Cooking in a Bedsitter has the merit of including lots of recipes suitable for one person, able to be cooked quickly, but not relying on the constant use of a frying pan. I cooked and ate my way through most of it when I was a student. Later on I turned to Jocasta Innes The Pauper's Cookbook, (2nd ed, Penguin 2003, first published 1971) which included recipes for dinner parties for impoverished host and not so impoverished guests. I think I bought my first copy of this from the newly opened Habitat in Manchester - the excitement of having something so trendy in Manchester in the late 1960's. There are several other cookbooks from that era: Poor Cook by Susan Campbell and Caroline Conran assumes you like eating well, but are on a limited budget and can only afford cheaper cuts of meat and so on. More For Your Money by Shirley Goode and Erica Griffiths (published in paperback by Penguin in 1981 has lots of recipes for feeding a small family well on practically next to nothing except for a bit of time in the kitchen, and includes ideas for planning a weeks meals at a time, something that modern housekeepers are not encouraged to do( Shirley Goode has a blog here and still writes about thrifty cooking) while Richard Mabey's Food for Free (Fontana/Collins 1972) gives lots of ideas for foragers. I've never manged much more than a bit a blackberrying on the Common, living in a city as I do, but its an ideal book for countrydwellers.

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