15 October 2011

Cosmopolitan Cookery In an English Kitchen

Theodora Fitzgibbon wrote over 30 books, most of them cookery books. Much of her writing dealt with her native Ireland and its surrounding area, but she was also well versed in food from an international perspective. For 15 years she worked on The Food of the Western World: An Encyclopedia of Food from North America and Europe a compendium of... well, it is exactly what the title says it is: an encyclopedia of food from North America and Europe.

As a kind of precursor to this monumental work, Fitzgibbon wrote Cosmopolitan Cookery In an English Kitchen. The book is a collection of Recipes Fitzgibbon adapted from her many travels. IT was an attempt to move the English cook away from mutton and boiled carrots. Published in 1953, it recalls a time when England was still dealing with the ravages of rationing. On 4 July 1954, food rationing in England came to an end with meat being the last of the rationed foodstuffs. After so much hardship, it was often hard for the home cook to let go and explore new options, as simply putting "food" on the table had been so hard.

Fitzgibbon offers this advice to those reading her book:

"I have found that many a good cook tends to spoil a meal by serving the wrong things together. A dinner consisting of the following was given to me some time ago: a leek and potato soup with cram, followed by chicken and onions in a bechamel sauce, followed in turn by mousse covered in cream. All delicious separately and all practically tasteless together, to say nothing of the appearance three times of a great gery-white splodge. (For the colour and consistency of food is important too.)"

I find "splodge" to be my new favorite word. Technically an irregular milky spot or drip, but with a recently more sexualized connotation. But I digress...

I have never been fond of veal, but I do love a good cooked cucumber and this dish offers the option of lamb and frankly, I think chicken would work too.

Sliced Veal or Lamb and Cucumbers

1/2 lb veal
1 1/2 dessertspoons of water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 oz mushrooms and/or Chinese fungus
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 cucumber
1 oz cooking fat

Slice the veal into thin strips, and mix with the cornflour paste made from the teaspoon of cornflour and the water, Peel the cucumber, cut into cubes, and fry for a few minutes with the slice mushrooms or fungus in the cooking fat Add the meat and cornflour mixture and fry together for 10 minutes. Add soy sauce, stir well and cook gently for 5 minutes, This dish can be made with pork and celery.

Or, I think, chicken!

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