My great aunts recipe books have long fascinated me so when today I was sorting boxes
to try and kick-start my research into their father’s life I allowed myself to distracted by one. To call it a recipe book is rather misleading as the pages have long since detached themselves from the cover. It was originally a hard back note book, and first belonged to their mother, Charlotte Liversedge (1852-1938).
The recipes written on the original pages include ones to stop a leak on a cask and to waterproof a coat alongside the more conventional Tapioca Cream, Everton Toffee and Mushroom Ketchup. One is described as “Hydropathic Pudding” with the cryptic comment in brackets “where is not allowed”; actually the recipe seems similar to Summer Pudding but made with any fruit. A recipe for cough mixture includes 4 poppy heads crushed, 2 oz Iceland Moss, 4 spoonfuls pearl barley and a little white sugar. All boiled in five pints of water reduced to three and then strained. You can still buy a cough syrup containing Iceland Moss but not, as far as I can find, Poppy heads. A recipe for furniture polish containing turpentine, linseed oil, methylated spirit, vinegar and antimony is to be put in a bottle labelled poison.
There are numerous loose cuttings from newspapers, mostly recipes but some longer articles. The earliest dated is from 1898 and has useful notes for ladies on matters such as cleaning glass globes and boiling rice. One from Person’s Weekly, April 24 1902, consists of a whole page advert for Kutnow’s Powder for rheumatism, neuralgia and gout. A cutting from Forget-Me-Not, a pictorial journal for ladies gives us Sarah Bernhart’s Beauty Secrets.
Just to show some things never change on the other side of a page of Christmas recipes from December 1910 is an article headed “Perils of
Unchecked Obesity”, subtitled “the question of waist fashion” which is a lightly disguised advert for Antipon, the world famous remedy for the permanent cure of obesity. I have looked this up and apparently it contained citric acid, red food colouring, water and alcohol and sold for 20 times the cost of its ingredients..
A later cutting talks about home rations and war-time gardening for the First World War. Another similar recipe book I have gives recipes for carrot jam and using dried eggs from the second war.
Between the pages are also pressed leaves and ferns, letters and cards. One letter dated 1921 is from Charlotte’s son and daughter –in-law in New Zealand since 1914 and describes their move to a new home and how their children are settling down.
Then we come almost up to date as the book changes hands from mother to daughters, my great aunts, Ethel (1886-1977) and Gladys (1889-1982). The handwriting on the loose leaves changes and there is a cutting from the Radio Times of June 1958, Cookery Club winning entries chosen by Marguerite Patten. As well as the cuttings there are now colourful promotional leaflets for Sainsbury’s chicken, St Michael’s cheese and Danish Bacon.
Finally possibly the most recent item, a postcard from me, sent when I was at guide camp near Windsor in 1965.