I love my Gran. She’s everything you expect to find in your classic wartime gran; she’s no-nonsense and tough as nails. And she always gives me fudge whenever I see her even though I don’t really like fudge (if you’re reading this gran, firstly congratulations on navigating your way through the world wide web onto my site, and secondly don’t stop giving me fudge – my housemates love it).
I also love that along with a huge box of fudge, she always gives me a whole bag of things she no longer wants/things she thinks I’ll like that have been lying around her house. On this particular lunch date with Gran I was given a punnet of Tesco strawberries, 2 anoraks (I’ve now received 4 anoraks of varying patterns from Gran in the past month, I’m not sure she realises that I’m living in Exeter, not the Amazon), Hilary Clinton’s autobiography (I’m not sure why), and, best of all, a very well worn, bound 1930s edition of ‘Mrs Beeton’s Family Cookery’. It’s magical. Everything about it is intriguing. The inside reads that it was awarded to a ‘Mrs. Richards’ for coming second in the McDougall’s Cake-Making Competition on December 16th, 1931; the first few pages are covered in little black and white adverts for The Fletcher Gas Cooker, ‘Coignet’s Fine Sheet Gelatines’ and ‘Halford’s Indian Curry Powder’; and it’s got little stains and dog-eared pages marking the favourite labour-saving household tips and recipes for cow-heel soup and bawn (some sort of boiled pig’s head – heads feature in a lot of these recipes). But best of all is the fantastic chapter named ‘The Housewife’.
A few little nuggets of pre-feminist gold from this chapter:
- It begins ‘a woman’s home should be first and foremost in her life, but if she allows household cares entirely to occupy her thoughts, she will become narrow in her interests and sympathies’ – because it’s all too easy for a woman to allow her occupation within the house to completely consume her thoughts (catch me on a night out and ask what I’m thinking about and I’ll of course respond ‘polishing the silverware – what else?!?’.
- It’s got a whole page on ‘the management of the servants’, instructing that the mistress of the house should have the responsibility of allocating and supervising. Should there be a number of servants proportionate to the amount of work to be done, she should have no need to assist. Like a military operation with dusters.
- Under the ‘labour-saving house’ section of the chapter, she writes that ‘very few houses are built on labour-saving lines; in fact, the architect (perhaps because he is a man!) seems to go out of his way to make things as difficult as possible’. Yeah. Bloody man architects.
Though I’m loving this fantastically draconian guidance to the home, once you get past the various instructions on the best way to arrange your sofa in accordance to the coffee table and how best to decorate in a tasteful but lavish manner, there are actually some quite useful tips that go way further than just ironing shirts etc. There are tips on the best ways to waterproof boots and shoes, how to adjust the sound of your electric bell, how to lay a carpet (forget washing lace doilies, these women could LAY A CARPET) and so much more. It even tells you how to temporarily fix leaking pipes and loosen rusted/broken screws. I feel quite inferior to my female elders now – yeah we’ve come a long way with female equality in the last 30 years, but I bet none of us can locate a gas leak on a pipe and temporarily fix it until a plumber arrives. Hats off to you, Mrs Beeton – you make even the architects of the world seem silly in comparison to your DIY prowess.
So anyway, I would share a recipe from the book, but it’s 900 pages long with about 4 recipes on each page, and I don’t know what half the things are (the page I’m currently on requires a landrail, ortolans, or corn-crake – apparently they’re types of game). Instead I’ll just share what I had for lunch today, because was nice and it was simple. This summer salad can have any other greens you have lying around (maybe asparagus or fine beans would be a nice addition), and butterbeans or cannellini beans would be good to bulk it out if you wanted to make a dinner out of it.
Roasted broccoli, avocado and almond salad with citrus dressing for 1
Quarter of a broccoli head, including stalk, sliced into flat chunks
1 garlic clove, crushed – or alternative garlic flakes. I’ve got a smoked garlic and chilli mix (got it from m&s) that tastes amazing
1 tsp chilli flakes (or the grinder thing I just mentioned)
1/2 an avocado
Mixed salad leaves
A handful of almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
A small handful of either dried cranberries or raisins (cranberries = nicer, raisins = cheaper)
Juice of half a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees c. Toss your broccoli pieces in olive oil, garlic and chilli, before placing on a baking sheet lined with parchment, spaced out. Season, and roast for about 20 minutes or until slightly charred.
- Meanwhile, dice the avocado and add to a bowl with the mixed leaves, cranberries/raisins, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Toss to mix everything and season well.
- Put a frying pan on high and toast the almonds and seeds until brown. Mix these in with the salad.
- Throw the charred broccoli in with the rest of the salad and toss to coat everything.