21 March 2014

A Handbook of Cookery For A Small House

I say, "Joseph Conrad" and you say,  "Lord Jim or Heart of Darkness."  You probably don't say, "He wrote a cookbook preface."  But if you did, you would be correct.  Mr. Heart of Darkness wrote the preface to his wife, Jessie's cookbook.  Conrad writes:

"Of all the books produced since the most remote ages by human talents and industry those only that treat of cooking are, from a moral point of view, above suspicion.  The intention of every other piece of prose may be discussed and even mistrusted; but the purpose of a cookery book is one and unmistakable.  Its object can conceivably be no other than to increase the happiness of mankind."

Doesn't that just make you want to hurry out to the nearest bouquiniste and grab up all his books?  Basically Ol' Joe wants you to know that cookbooks make you happy.  On that, we agree!

In A Handbook of Cookery For A Small House Jessie Conrad opens with "A Few Introductory Words" to set out simple instructions for the home cook.

"Cooking ought not to take too much of one's time.  One hour and a half to two hours for lunch, and two and a half for dinner is sufficient, providing the the servant knows how to make up the fire in order to get the stove ready for use."

Face it, if you were married to Joseph Conrad you would want to spend at least five hours in the kitchen!  As one might guess, Conrad's recipes are rather straight forward, meat and potatoes fare.  There are sausages, kidneys, steak, mutton, fish, and fowl of various varieties.  There are potatoes in many forms and most dessert involves the stewing of fruit.  Frankly, it would seem that bangers and mash and some stewed rhubarb would come together in under three hours even if you had to light the stove, yourself.

Here is an example of a dish Jessie would have served Joseph for his luncheon.

Pigeons with Carrots

Split the roasted pigeons in halves and lay cut side down in a stone saucepan with half a claret glass of white wine, pepper and salt, with four carrots cut lengthwise, each into eight pieces then cut across.  Add a little meat juice.  Put enough water to just cover the pigeons.  Stew gently for three-quarters of an hour.  Thicken with a little flour and water and serve in the stone saucepan, or a deep dish.

I doubt you will want to grab a copy of this to make your dinner, but as a literary tie-in, it is quite fun.  If you do see a copy, you might just want to grab it as they are getting scarce and expensive.

1 comment:

  1. I love tie-ins between literature and food, so I'll keep my eye out for this one, although I can't say I'm a big fan of Joseph Conrad.


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