Sunday, May 18, 2008

Practical Cookery

"Practical Cookery and The Etiquete and Service of the Table" cost me the grand total of 80 pence in one of my local charity shops. This brilliant little book was produced by the Department of Food Economics and Nutrition, Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science in 1932, although this is a 16th edition from 1936. Wow, is all I can say. I haven't got the faintest idea how such a thing ended up in north London.

It really is an amazing thing, with such highlights including: the inner workings of an all manner of stoves and cookers; cooking from very first principles; detailed tables of boiling times for vegetables; scorecards for bread and dinner parties (though it doesn't say if this is to mark your own work or other peoples); detailed place settings and pictures of every knife, fork and spoon you will ever encounter.

However the true treasure is the handwritten brownie recipe on the back cover page. This reads as follows:

1/2 cup Spry
2 oz choc.
3/4 cup sifted flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup nuts

Melt Spry & choc. together over hot water. Cool.
Sift flour with b.powder & salt
Beat eggs until light, add sugar, then choc. (unknown word) and blend.
Add flour, vanilla & nuts & mix well.
Bake in 8 x 8 in. Spry greased pan in moderate oven (350F) 35 min.
Cool & cut unto squares. Makes 16

Now I have to admit I was flummoxed over 'Spry', I looked and looked again and that was definitely what the word said. A little detective work has revealed this and this. Spry is some kind of vegetable shortening used to back cakes - potentially in exactly the same period this book was printed, which is what I was most excited about. There's no date with the recipe, but the Spry, handwriting and ink makes me want to think it's circa 1940's too.

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