It's not just poor families. I live in a village where a majority are comfortably off. A friend goes through the books donated to our recycling centre for ones that are good enough to sell on Amazon - the money benefits the village school. Her husband observed that quite a few cookery books don't appear to have been used. You'd expect good cookery books to have pages marked with ingredients, he said, with splashes of gravy, beaten egg or sauce on the pages referred to most often. Pristine pages may be good from a fund-raising perspective, but what does that tell us about how much cooking is going on?
My mum, like many of her generation (she was a wartime bride), wrote recipes in an exercise book that got progressively tattier. It occurred to me this morning that I must start my own recipe book, since I've accumulated lots of scraps of paper and cuttings in an untidy folder. During and immediately after the war it was unthinkable to waste food because there just wasn't enough to waste. One of my favourite meals was a baked cheese and tomato thing Mum made with semolina. There wasn't a lot of cheese, but it tasted good just the same.
I don't have much sympathy with those who complain that they can't eat well on a low income, as I do, when it's apparent that they expect to do that on a supermarket trolleyful of processed meals. If you're hungry enough, you'll learn. There's no shortage of advice. It's especially galling to see how much food is wasted by fussy eaters who don't plan ahead - see the Love Food Hate Waste website. As food prices escalate, we're all going to have to think about what we eat, maybe learning from our great-grandmothers who fed their families in wartime.
Now I must make some soup.
Preserve label © M Nelson 2000