Thursday, 20 February 2014


I've had my fair share of cooking disasters; curdled milk, raw chicken, burnt cookies. Ask my long suffering mother.

In my better moments, I admit to being (mostly) responsible. But on the whole, I've found it suits better to deflect raised eyebrows to the recipe's soundness.

And you have to admit, this is not just pulling a culinary fast one. There ARE those recipes. The ones with way wrong cooking times, or you know when they don't specify the size of 'glass baking dish?"

The worst!

What is more horrifying, is that sometimes, whole cookbooks fall into this category. Taking an unofficial survey (oh, of one), I've been safe to assume that the worst cookbooks are the 'themed' variety. Recipes entirely based on TV shows, or the ones with scene stills from a movie on their glossy cover. I squint and smirk, because I pride myself on a sixth sense and can usually pass them right by. I KNOW those recipes won't work.


This past Christmas I received Dining with Mr. Darcy - a cookbook of regency food that Jane Austen or her characters would have eaten.

Let me explain my observations.

The first thing I noticed was that the cover did not feature Kiera Knightly.

That's kind of hard not to love.
Second: There were no pencil illustrations to be seen. The photography was surprisingly pretty and there was lots of it.
Third. The recipes appeared to strive for Regency authenticity (at least as much as I know about it) and not just throw "Lizzie's Favourite" in front of every pudding or fool.
So I made the English muffins.
And they worked.
So I made six more recipes. (roast pork with onions, syllabub, apple custard tart, bath buns, dried pea soup...)
And they worked too.
The most unusual recipe I tried was Flummery. A sort of almond flavoured milk gelatin, it was intriguingly smooth and placid. Maybe the desserts back then had to allow for corsets?
So I take back my assumptions about 'gimmicky' cookbooks. Despite the recipes in Dining with Mr. Darcy that call for partridge and sweetbreads, it is still fully functional, interesting and fun to read.
 It could stand alone, even without the alliterative title.
But I still am holding ground on the bad recipe theory. They are still out there, I promise. Take this excerpt from Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy, published 1747.
"To make a hedgehog, take two Quarts of sweet blanched Almonds, beat them well in a Mortar, with a little Canary and Orange-flower Water, to keep them from oiling. Make them into a stiff Paste, then beat in Sugar, put in half a Pound of sweet Butter melted, set on a Furnace or slow Fire and keep it constantly stirring till it is stiff enough to be made into the Form of a Hedge-Hog, then put it into a Dish.



  1. That cookbook does sound surprisingly good. The hedgehog recipe sounds like marzipan maybe? The Guelph Archives has thousands of old cookbooks... I'm sure they would provide endless entertainment.

    1. Gold medal goes to Margaret! Yes! The updated version of the recipe used marzipan.
      I'm really impressed. :)

  2. *chokes* Oh my, that recipe is :D And I'm showing my ignorance when I say I don't even know what marzipan is. Hehe.

    Anyway, I think you cook more than I do. But it sounds like you have fun with it! Thanks for the warning on themed cookbooks!