In my last post I described the potential dangers of following old recipes precisely. In particular the use of Laurel leaves in making almond flavoured Ratafia Cream, this naturally made me want to try and make a Ratafia Cream that wasn’t likely to kill me. I began my quest and soon discovered a suitable recipe, that just uses cream (of middling thickness) ground almonds and sugar, in A New System of Domestic Cookery formed of Principles of Economy written by A Lady in 1860.
Re-reading the introduction Miscellaneous Observations for the use of a Mistress of a Family, I realised I had forgotten how generally unpleasant the author is. Most of the Miscellaneous Observations are devoted to servants, who she clearly considers to be inherently immoral and dishonest.
For example, in the morning;
Orders should be given early in the morning, so there will be more time to execute them (sounds reasonable but she continues) and servants, by keeping them from idleness will be equal to their labours, and fewer (servants) will be necessary.
But it is on the touchy subject of the poor that the Lady clearly shows her colours, as a Pelagian she feels that;
Some part of every person’s fortune should be devoted to charity; by which “a pious woman will build up her house before God.”
However in mid-nineteenth century Britain;
No one can complain of the want of the gifts to the poor in this land.
Clearly she agrees with Ebenezer Scrooge as to the value of the workhouses. But such charity as has to be given can be achieved whilst meeting her Principles of Economy;
But there is a mode of relief which would add greatly to their comfort, and which being prepared from such materials as are often thrown away, the expense would not be felt.
Later in the book there is a section on Cookery for the Poor, in which such helpful hints such as;
The bones, head and fins of a fish, boiled in the juices left upon the plate after it has been served make a delightful broth.
Broken potatoes, the neck and feet of fowl, the outer leaves and stalks of cabbages well boiled provide a most nutritious dish.
However my favourite has to be;
Brewis:- cut a very thick crust of bread and put it into the pot where salt beef is boiling. It will attract some of the fat, and when swelled out, will be no unpalatable dish to those who rarely taste meat.
You may be surprised to learn that, in my experimentation with historic cookery, I have never yet been tempted to try any of these.