05 October 2009

Edwardian Glamour Cooking Without Tears

Oswell Blakeston was the pseudonym of Henry Joseph Hasslacher 1907 - 1985. He was a later member of POOL, a group begun by the ménage à trois of Bryher, Kenneth Macpherson and Hilda Doolittle.

Hilda Doolittle H. D.

POOL was launched in 1927 and was followed by the initial publication of its journal, Close Up in July of the same year. The first issue announced a list future contributors which included André Gide, Dorothy Richardson, Osbert Sitwell, Havelock Ellis, and H.D. The explanation of POOL ideas was articulated in their first catalogue.

The expanding ripples from a stone dropped in a pool have become more a symbol for the growth of an idea than a simple matter of hydraulics.

As the stone will cause a spread of ripples to the water's edge, so ideas once started will go to their unknown boundary.

These concentric expansions are exemplified in POOL, which is the source simply - the stone - the idea.

POOL made one full length film, starring Paul Robeson. Borderline is currently available in a Criterion Collection Set of Robeson films.

Kenneth Macpherson directing Paul Robeson

POOL split up in and ceased publication of Close Up in 1933. Oswell Blakeston went on to have a prolific writing career. You have to love this slim cookery volume, dedicated to Bryher. Edwardian Glamour Cooking Without Tears is, according to the jacket notes:
“...not just a pretty confection, but a practical collection of delicious, forgotten recipes… which produces lavish results – as good to look at as to eat.”
Many of the recipes call for a mortar and pestle. Blakeston says:

“You will probably use an electric mixer, but I will keep ‘pestle and mortar’ in the recipes as the words belong to the Edwardians who created the dishes. Besides, I hope this collection may interest those who do no possess a mixer but who may be inspired to think that some extra labour is offset by a saving of wear and tear on the nerves when the cook can feel confident of producing an unhackneyed piece that cannot fail as a culinary tour de force.”
There may be only a few recipes in this book, but Oswell Blakeston believes passionately in all of them. Here is a good old English recipe that requires that Edwardian mortar and pestle.

Potted Pheasant

The meat from one roast pheasant
1 quart chicken stock (made, if convenient, from bouillon cubes)
1 glass sherry
2 shallots
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme

Boil the meat in the liquid stock and sherry, with shallots and herbs. Cook until the liquid is reduced to a glaze. Strain. Chop the meat, rejecting sinews; and pound in the mortar. Add the glaze. Pound again. Season with salt and cayenne. Press the mixture into pots; and cover with butter.

I am feeling lavish and Edwardian already! Besides, where else can you write about a cookbook and get to throw in H.D. and Paul Robeson?

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