London In Autumn: Now The Fun Begins

London

Autumn in the countryside means the arrival of mud, the less enjoyable vegetables (turnips, anyone?) and the countryside’s only advantage, scenery, being obscured by freezing rain. Mercifully for Londoners it’s the start of the Season – sport, theatre, music, literature, all the arts burst into bloom from the Tate to the V&A, the West End to the fringe, in pop-ups all over the capital. I’ve made my list – now I just need to finance it…

David Hare’s searing play ‘The Permanent Way’, about the chaos of breaking up the railways, is currently playing in a railway tunnel, which appeals to me. I have tickets for the new version of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s ‘The Visit: Or the Old Lady Comes To Call’, a play that has always disturbed me.

This is a timely new version by Tony Kushner, starring one of my favourite actors, Leslie Manville (there’s an eerie musical adaptation that has never played in London; perhaps that will come next). Let’s hope it’s better than the disappointing ‘The Man in the White Suit’, which eschews the darker Ealing original for a crowd-pleasing slapstick approach. I’m all for fan service, but unlike the brilliant stage version of ‘The Ladykillers’ this is end-of-the-pier stuff, although Stephen Mangan works himself to the bone for laughs.

Meanwhile, pubs are hosting vegetable markets in the mornings and screenings at night, the ever-delightful Sohemians are staging their modern-day magic lantern shows on a host of esoteric subjects, it’s Diwali, Bonfire Night, Oktoberfest and (to a lesser extent) Hallowe’en, with as many single-use plastics that can be sold to children. Ian McKellen is doing his one-man show in as many locations as years of his life (good stamina!), museums are hosting special nights and of course it’s Oscar contender season so there’s a lot of incredible world cinema about.

 

I went to see ‘Monos’, Alejandro Landes’ strange, surreal cross between ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’. Easier to digest was the delightful ‘The Aeronauts’, which has Felicity Jones as the daredevil pilot Amelia Wren, taking a hot air balloon higher than anyone in the world has ever ventured in 1862. Although it’s a visual treat it is also historical nonsense, as the stunt was actually performed by a male scientist, Henry Coxwell, who here is denied his right to the achievement. Still, the message of female empowerment is not to be begrudged, and it’s exciting stuff.

At this time of the year it’s important to keep a visual record too, although I’m not an inveterate photo-taker, so I’ll be taking ‘ordinary’ shots of London life and architecture as I plod about town between downpours, trying to unravel the nots in my upcoming thriller (I say upcoming, I haven’t actually written it yet but it’s in my head).

Sometimes the most mundane streets appear delightful when you’ve been away for a while – these houses off Amwell Street are similar to the one I grew up in. They look nicer, probably because they’re now owned by wealthy residents instead of ordinary families who used to leave motorbikes in their front gardens and had screaming kids running in and out all day. I preferred those rowdy, messy neighbourhoods to the strange perfect deadness we have now.

So, I’ll be observing and making notes in the city, which will find their way into novels or perhaps ‘Bryant & May’s Guide to London’, which I may have to get around to writing one day!

 

 

40 comments on “London In Autumn: Now The Fun Begins”

  1. David Howlett says:

    Had a strange experience a couple of days ago. Reading Ten-Second Staircase in the afternoon I came across the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds’. Imagine my surprise when watching Elementary on Netflix that evening I heard Holmes say exactly the same quote! The episode was The Red Team Season I Episode 13 first aired on 31 January 2013 (interesting numbers as well as would have been my Dad’s birthday if he was still around). Bryant and May’s Guide to London would be great. Hope you get time to do it.

  2. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    Ian McKellen’s one man show is superb.
    It did make me feel very old though, as I realised that it was 50 years since I first saw him on stage.

    Bryant and May’s Guide to London – now that really would be worth reading. I suspect that there might be some arguments about what they should include.

  3. snowy says:

    “Autumn in the countryside means the arrival of mud, the less enjoyable vegetables (turnips, anyone?) and the countryside’s only advantage, scenery, being obscured by freezing rain.”

    Oh to be in the City now that Autumn has come, to escape muddy paths* and gambol along the streets strewn with dog shit, chewing gum and discarded take-aways. Who needs fallen leaves to kick through when there are pizza, chicken and kebab boxes in such supply?

    The secret of turnips is to recall that they were the ‘potato’ before the potato arrived. Anything you can do with a spud you can do with a turnip. They are something of a rarity even out here, [most people have never cooked them]. Mashed with carrot and butter makes a nice change from plain mash, dash of pepper obv.

    If it didn’t rain it’d be a desert and we’d all starve. [You can spot rain coming an hour away by looking at the open sky, you don’t even need an app!]

    [* Paths are generated by human traffic, often over a very long time, even centuries. If the shortest path used in the summer tends to flood over in autumn there is always a higher route to take, our ancestors weren’t daft.
    The same can’t be said for the legions of Sunday walkers who wade through knee deep mud because their phone tells them to.]

  4. Ian Luck says:

    Turnip tops (the leaves) are one of the nicest ‘greens’ that you can eat. Young, small, turnips are good used in stews. I prefer Turnips to Swede, which I’ve only very recently been able to eat without gagging on the taste. Kohl Rabi, on the other hand, should have stayed with Mangolds as cattle fodder. The ‘Autumnal’ vegetables I detest are: Squash. All types – no matter how it’s prepared, to me, it has the taste, and mouthfeel of wet cardboard. Pumpkin. Seeds a big yes – the rest – sit outside at halloween as a ‘Punkie’, and then in the garden waste with you.Celeriac – looks like a brain, tastes of utter disappointment. Similarly, the hipster favourite, Kale. Cattle fodder again. Indigestible unless you have a ruminant’s digestive system. Sea Kale, on the other hand, which can be found on the coast, has edible stems, which are delicious.

  5. snowy says:

    Ian, if you like turnip tops, you might enjoy wild ‘Hedge Garlic’: [Alliaria petiolata]. Grows everywhere, green heart-shaped leaves 2″-3″. [Despite sounding like it should belong to the Allium family it is really a Brasscica, pinch off stems, rinse and then steam as a green or make Saag Aloo.]

    [If you spot a likely clump, pick a couple of leaves, crush them in your hand and sniff the top of your closed fist – they will smell of garlic, tear off a quarter of a leaf and chew it, to release a light mustard flavour.]

  6. Roger says:

    Delighted to find I am not the only fan of turnips and turnip-tops around! Beet-tops are very good too, and so are salsify-tops.
    Have you seen Hyenas? It’s a very good Senegalese film based on The Visit.

  7. Brooke says:

    Autumn vegetables. Hooray for turnips, staple of good southern AA cooking. Added to makings of chicken stock for especially favorful broth. Yummy squash, butternut and honeynut, basked with eastern spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, served with yogurt. Kale, collard, mustard greens braised with red frying peppers, onions if you prefer, served with hot buttered corn bread is saturday evening supper. Fried chicken optional. Vietnamese farmers now have bok choy and tatsoi (Brasscica ?) available –delicious stir fry.

    Autumn in city this last Sunday–rain, with mud sloshed over me by cars going to fast, Fortunately sky-reaching, sterile glass boxes urban ugly obscured by mist.

  8. Peter Tromans says:

    Turnip tops are a great delicacy in central and southern Italy. The Italian name is ‘cime di rapa’, but they are often called broccoletti, which is confusing as they aren’t broccoli. Anyway, google the Italian names and you’ll find a mass of excellent recipes. For me, the best is often the simplest: chopped, cooked in olive oil and a little garlic and placed with some good cheese (a good Cheddar or Shropshire) in some excellent focaccia (at least before they told me that I can’t eat decent bread).

  9. Mary Young says:

    Not keen on turnips. They gave them to the prisoners in Auschwitz. They were boiled in water. People died of malnutrition. The turnip has pretty muted colours…that’s all

  10. Helen Martin says:

    I’m never sure whether Brits mean those purple and white globes which have very little taste or texture when cooked or swedes, which have lots of flavour. I like swedes and cooked with carrots are very nice.You can also cook them with apples if you like the sweetness. Old turnips are for the compost. All squash is good, especially now that we have microwaves which will cook it quickly instead of in hours. Steamed is also good if you don’t do it too long. Turnip greens are only available here if you grow them yourself. Beets are good in any form – greens, boiled beetroot, pickled, whatever. I’m working on making beet juice ink (not to eat) I’m with Brooke except for the kale which I don’t think I’d feed to cows because I’ll bet it would taint the milk.
    Actually saw Sir Ian in Vancouver, fascinating man, and imagine doing a one man show at his age.
    Pouring down rain, absolutely pelting, but apparently not stopping people in this province from voting. Weather good elsewhere so heavy voting so far. Perhaps we’ll actually have more than 50% of voters turning out. Boris having a good day, isn’t he?

  11. Wayne Mook says:

    As it’s getting near Halloween I’m be off to the Fantastic Film Festival a small scale thing in which they show plenty of horror and some SF, old and new, especially some of the more B and below films.

    Remember though turnips and swedes are the opposite way round in some parts esp Scotland and parts of the North. In Scotland neeps and tatties are the dish, then you have white turnip and yellow turnip.

    There is a handy table on Wikipedia.

    For Autumn some splendid apples are now being picked, August to early November; just picked up some cox from the shop, lovely.

    Wayne.

  12. Ian Luck says:

    Snowy – That’s a plant that grows in my garden, and is called ‘Jack By The Hedge’ in my part of the UK. It’s usual name is ‘Garlic Mustard’. I’ve used the leaves to enliven sandwiches – it smells far stronger than it tastes, but I love it. And it pops up early in the year, too.

  13. Ian Luck says:

    Helen – not sure about Kale tainting milk, but a type of wild Allium called ‘Ramsons’ definitely will. Maybe there’s a market for Garlic flavoured milk. Who can tell, these days?
    Possibly the oldest recorded strike in history was workers on one of the pyramids in Egypt downing tools because they had not received their daily allowance of onions, and, if I remember correctly, beer. I bet those blokes were fun to work on a burial chamber with. Maybe that’s the answer to why the pyramid interiors were ventilated – the place was full of flatulent brickies and chippies. Makes perfect sense, now.

  14. admin says:

    OH GOD I KNEW WE’D GET ONTO TURNIPS!!!

  15. Andrew Holme says:

    Admin, it’s why I love these pages. Let’s get the turnip question fully resolved, and then we can talk about culture.

  16. snowy says:

    It’s your own fault, there we were discussing the semiotics of ‘Brief Encounter’ and YOU mention the ‘T’ word. Ho hum… Lets see what Mrs B has to say on the subject?

    [Note that she is not shy of mentioning the consequences of ingesting large quantities of leafy greens, the last paragraph in particular – if taken in one sitting would produce some quite spectacular crinoline-rippers.]

    BOILED TURNIPS.

    1165. INGREDIENTS – Turnips; to each 1/2 gallon of water allow 1 heaped tablespoonful of salt.

    Mode.—Pare the turnips, and, should they be very large, divide them into quarters; but, unless this is the case, let them be cooked whole. Put them into a saucepan of boiling water, salted in the above proportion, and let them boil gently until tender. Try them with a fork, and, when done, take them up in a colander; let them thoroughly drain, and serve. Boiled turnips are usually sent to table with boiled mutton, but are infinitely nicer when mashed than served whole: unless nice and young, they are scarcely worth the trouble of dressing plainly as above.

    Time.—Old turnips, 3/4 to 1–1/4 hour; young ones, about 18 to 20 minutes.

    Average cost, 4d. per bunch.

    Sufficient.—Allow a bunch of 12 turnips for 5 or 6 persons.

    Seasonable.—May be had all the year; but in spring only useful for flavouring gravies, &c.

    [Illustration: TURNIPS.]

    THE TURNIP.—This vegetable is the Brassica Rapa of science, and grows wild in England, but cannot be brought exactly to resemble what it becomes in a cultivated state. It is said to have been originally introduced from Hanover, and forms an excellent culinary vegetable, much used all over Europe, where it is either eaten alone or mashed and cooked in soups and stews. They do not thrive in a hot climate; for in India they, and many more of our garden vegetables, lose their flavour and become comparatively tasteless. The Swede is the largest variety, but it is too coarse for the table.

    MASHED TURNIPS.

    1166. INGREDIENTS – 10 or 12 large turnips; to each 1/2 gallon of water allow 1 heaped tablespoonful of salt, 2 oz. of butter, cayenne or white pepper to taste.

    Mode.—Pare the turnips, quarter them, and put them into boiling water, salted in the above proportion; boil them until tender; then drain them in a colander, and squeeze them as dry as possible by pressing them with the back of a large plate. When quite free from water, rub the turnips with a wooden spoon through the colander, and put them into a very clean saucepan; add the butter, white pepper, or cayenne, and, if necessary, a little salt. Keep stirring them over the fire until the butter is well mixed with them, and the turnips are thoroughly hot; dish, and serve. A little cream or milk added after the turnips are pressed through the colander, is an improvement to both the colour and flavour of this vegetable.

    Time.—From 1/2 to 3/4 hour to boil the turnips; 10 minutes to warm them through.

    Average cost, 4d. per bunch.

    Sufficient for 4 or 5 persons.

    Seasonable.—May be had all the year; but in spring only good for flavouring gravies.

    VEGETABLES REDUCED TO PURE.—Persons in the flower of youth, having healthy stomachs, and leading active lives, may eat all sorts of vegetables, without inconvenience, save, of course, in excess. The digestive functions possess great energy during the period of youth: the body, to develop itself, needs nourishment. Physical exercise gives an appetite, which it is necessary to satisfy, and vegetables cannot resist the vigorous action of the gastric organs. As old proverb says, “At twenty one can digest iron.” But for aged persons, the sedentary, or the delicate, it is quite otherwise. Then the gastric power has considerably diminished, the digestive organs have lost their energy, the process of digestion is consequently slower, and the least excess at table is followed by derangement of the stomach for several days. Those who generally digest vegetables with difficulty, should eat them reduced to a pulp or pure, that is to say, with their skins and tough fibres removed. Subjected to this process, vegetables which, when entire, would create flatulence and wind, are then comparatively harmless. Experience has established the rule, that nourishment is not complete without the alliance of meat with vegetables. We would also add, that the regime most favourable to health is found in variety: variety pleases the senses, monotony is disagreeable. The eye is fatigued by looking always on one object, the ear by listening to one sound, and the palate by tasting one flavour. It is the same with the stomach: consequently, variety of food is one of the essentials for securing good digestion.

    GERMAN MODE OF COOKING TURNIPS.

    1167. INGREDIENTS – 8 large turnips, 3 oz. of butter, pepper and salt to taste, rather more than 1/2 pint of weak stock or broth, 1 tablespoonful of flour.

    Mode.—Make the butter hot in a stewpan, lay in the turnips, after having pared and cut them into dice, and season them with pepper and salt. Toss them over the fire for a few minutes, then add the broth, and simmer the whole gently till the turnips are tender. Brown the above proportion of flour with a little butter; add this to the turnips, let them simmer another 5 minutes, and serve. Boiled mutton is usually sent to table with this vegetable, and may be cooked with the turnips by placing it in the midst of them: the meat would then be very delicious, as, there being so little liquid with the turnips, it would almost be steamed, and consequently very tender.

    Time.—20 minutes. Average cost, 4d. per bunch.

    Sufficient for 4 persons.

    Seasonable.—May be had all the year.

    TURNIPS.—Good turnips are delicate in texture, firm, and sweet. The best sorts contain a sweet juicy mucilage, uniting with the aroma a slightly acid quality, which is completely neutralized in cooking. The turnip is prepared in a variety of ways. Ducks stuffed with turnips have been highly appreciated. It is useful in the regimen of persons afflicted with chronic visceral irritations. The turnip only creates flatulency when it is soft, porous, and stringy. It is then, consequently, bad.

    TURNIPS IN WHITE SAUCE.

    (An Entremets, or to be served with the Second Course as a Side-dish.)

    1168. INGREDIENTS – 7 or 8 turnips, 1 oz. of butter, 1/2 pint of white sauce, No. 538 or 539.

    Mode.—Peel and cut the turnips in the shape of pears or marbles; boil them in salt and water, to which has been added a little butter, until tender; then take them out, drain, arrange them on a dish, and pour over the white sauce made by recipe No. 538 or 539, and to which has been added a small lump of sugar. In winter, when other vegetables are scarce, this will be found a very good and pretty-looking dish: when approved, a little mustard may be added to the sauce.

    Time.—About 3/4 hour to boil the turnips.

    Average cost, 4d. per bunch.

    Sufficient for 1 side-dish. Seasonable in winter.

    THE FRENCH NAVET.—This is a variety of the turnip; but, instead of being globular, has more the shape of the carrot. Its flavour being excellent, it is much esteemed on the Continent for soups and made dishes. Two or three of them will impart as much flavour as a dozen of the common turnips will. Accordingly, when stewed in gravy, they are greatly relished. This flavour resides in the rind, which is not cut off, but scraped. This variety was once grown in England, but now it is rarely found in our gardens, though highly deserving of a place there. It is of a yellowish-white colour, and is sometimes imported to the London market.

    BOILED TURNIP GREENS.

    1169. INGREDIENTS – To each 1/2 gallon of water, allow 1 heaped tablespoonful of salt; turnip-greens.

    Mode.—Wash the greens well in two or three waters, and pick off all the decayed and dead leaves; tie them in small bunches, and put them into plenty of boiling water, salted in the above proportion. Keep them boiling quickly, with the lid of the saucepan uncovered, and when tender, pour them into a colander; let them drain, arrange them in a vegetable-dish, remove the string that the greens were tied with, and serve.

    Time.—15 to 20 minutes. Average cost, 4d. for a dish for 3 persons.

    Seasonable in March, April, and May.

    CABBAGE, TURNIP-TOPS, AND GREENS.—All the cabbage tribe, which comprises coleworts, brocoli, cauliflower, sprouts, and turnip-tops, in order to be delicate, should be dressed young, when they have a rapid growth; but, if they have stood the summer, in order to be tender, they should be allowed to have a touch of frost. The cabbage contains much vegetable albumen, and several parts sulphur and nitrate of potass. Cabbage is heavy, and a long time digesting, which has led to a belief that it is very nourishing. It is only fit food for robust and active persons; the sedentary or delicate should carefully avoid it. Cabbage may be prepared in a variety of ways: it serves as a garniture to several recherch dishes,—partridge and cabbage for example. Bacon and cabbage is a very favourite dish; but only a good stomach can digest it.

  17. Andrew Holme says:

    Turnip question resolved. Thank you Snowy.

  18. Jo W says:

    Small fresh turnips are excellent when grated to add to a salad, a little more peppery tasting than radishes.

  19. Ian Luck says:

    Apart from Turnip obsessed ‘Blackadder’ character Baldrick’s famous recipe for ‘Turnip Surprise’. The surprise being nothing in it but Turnip.
    And let us not forget that when finding a Turnip shaped like a ‘thingy’, Baldrick says that it’s particularly ironic, as he has a ‘thingy’ shaped like a Turnip, and he used to hide in the vegetable basket, and frighten children with it.
    Two hundred years later, a descendent of his, spends ill-gotten gains on his ‘Dream Turnip’. Which a disgusted Blackadder (Mr), crams on to Baldrick’s head.

  20. eggsy says:

    Baldrick would be pleased.

    What’s wrong with Kale? Curly and flat leaf fine by me – perhaps people are using leaves that are too old.
    The totally unrelated Sea Kale (Crambe maritima) is lovely stuff, but probably shouldn’t be collected from the wild like ramsons and hedge garlic as it is fairly rare. Often mentioned as a garden veg in old books, never seen anyone growing it.
    Sweet chestnuts and hazelnuts too, if the squirrels haven’t had them all.

  21. eggsy says:

    Aah, Ian beat me to it with the Baldrick ref!

  22. snowy says:

    ♫ BING-BONG ♫

    *** TURNIP FLASH ***

    I knew ‘turnip tops’ rang another vague bell somewhere in the void between my ears, then I remembered stealing tops was something that people had been imprisoned for. What I hadn’t expected to find on looking it up was someone that attempted to make it their life’s work.

    Enter onto the stage, one William Flitton: born around 1830 in the town of Luton, Bedfordshire.

    His tale begins at the age of 18 when he was convicted of stealing apples. Chastened by this event he seems to have kept his nose clean for 3 years, until May 1851 went he was back before the beak for stealing rubarb and got 4 months for his trouble.

    It is in February 1852 that turnip tops make an appearance, he nicked them, they nicked him – 1 month hard labour.

    Seasonal veg. being well, seasonal, no more is heard till March 1853 when he is convicted again for stealing more turnip tops – 21 days hard labour, [June 1853 faces charges for damaging the local lock-up – 14 days and assaulting the jailer – 14 days additional.]

    January 1854 seemingly fancying a change of diet: caught stealing cabbages – 3 months.

    May 1855 he was caught ‘turnip-handed’ again – 1 month and in November of that year he netted a bucket of salt herring and received – 6 weeks.

    April 1856 Offence: Stealing turnip tops Sentence: 1 Month Hard Labour, in June he stole a quantity of iron, [you’d have thought he’d got enough from all the greens] – 4 years.

    Things go very quiet for a bit; until he gets out of jail, [and apparently goes on a bender], September 1860 Offence: Drunkeness, Sentence: 7 days.

    March 1861 Offence: Stealing a truss of Hay, [about half hundredweight] – 12 months.

    April 1862, breathing the sweet air of freedom after a year’s jug, he decides to celebrate by helping himself to… some tasty, tasty turnip tops, collared again! – 1 month.

    1863 would be a very busy year for both Bill and the Assizes: in February he warmed up with a little filtching of his favourite veg. – 21 days, before moving on to: June 1863 Offence: Drunk and riotous, Sentence – 10 days, and to round out the year, in December he was charged with Obtaining by false pretences – probably the most serious charge he ever faced – Acquitted.

    A serious charge avoided, come March 1864 , Spring, sprang an with it crops began to grow, guess what he did? Go on, you’ll never guess! Stealing turnip tops, again – 1 Month, December a time of Goodwill to All Men, Bill punched somebody and smashed up another cell, 1 month for the assault, two weeks for the damage.

    1865 was a re-run of the previous year, [punchy – smashy].

    [Here the curtain falls and his final fate is left to be discovered by others, but he lived at the dawn of photography, a technology siezed upon by police forces up and down the land to furnish numerous local ‘Rogues Galleries’, his image was preserved and can be viewed by clicking the link above.]

  23. Helen Martin says:

    To bring the discussion back to other things: why should we allow a woman the record for the highest balloon flight when it rightfully belongs to a man? Honour to those to whom honour is due, I say. Surely we’re getting past the point of saying, “Good try, old girl!” for making the attempt. If the action deserves a dramatic presentation why isn’t it of the man who actually did it, nott the woman who came close?

  24. Helen Martin says:

    Oh, and thank you Snowy for the information – all of it – and how could the young man be suffering from scurvy after all those turnip greens, cabbage, rhubarb, and apples?
    A couple of those recipes sound good enough to adapt, by the way.

  25. snowy says:

    Scurvy is a disease of malnutrition, this quote comes from from the period Willy went scrumping and is quite typical of what people had to eat:

    “A Dorset farm worker in the 1850’s earned six shillings a week and described his daily diet as follows: After attending the horses, ate a breakfast consisting of flour and butter with water poured over it, worked in the fields until midday then ate a piece of bread and occasionally cheese. Supper consisted of bread or potatoes and water, sometimes a little bacon. At harvest time his master gave him an allowance of beer.”

    And since I’ve been making so free with Mrs Beeton here is a little bit more from her, [WARNING May contain mention of small round purple and white root vegetables with green tops]:

    USEFUL SOUP FOR BENEVOLENT PURPOSES.

    165. INGREDIENTS – An ox-cheek, any pieces of trimmings of beef, which may be bought very cheaply (say 4 lbs.), a few bones, any pot-liquor the larder may furnish, 1/4 peck of onions, 6 leeks, a large bunch of herbs, 1/2 lb. of celery (the outside pieces, or green tops, do very well); 1/2 lb. of carrots, 1/2 lb. of turnips, 1/2 lb. of coarse brown sugar, 1/2 a pint of beer, 4 lbs. of common rice, or pearl barley; 1/2 lb. of salt, 1 oz. of black pepper, a few raspings, 10 gallons of water.

    Mode.—Cut up the meat in small pieces, break the bones, put them in a copper, with the 10 gallons of water, and stew for 1/2 an hour. Cut up the vegetables, put them in with the sugar and beer, and boil for 4 hours. Two hours before the soup is wanted, add the rice and raspings, and keep stirring till it is well mixed in the soup, which simmer gently. If the liquor reduces too much, fill up with water.

    Time.—6–1/2 hours. Average cost, 1–1/2d. per quart.

    Note.—The above recipe was used in the winter of 1858 by the Editress, who made, each week, in her copper, 8 or 9 gallons of this soup, for distribution amongst about a dozen families of the village near which she lives. The cost, as will be seen, was not great; but she has reason to believe that the soup was very much liked, and gave to the members of those families, a dish of warm, comforting food, in place of the cold meat and piece of bread which form, with too many cottagers, their usual meal, when, with a little more knowledge of the “cooking.” art, they might have, for less expense, a warm dish, every day.

  26. Wayne Mook says:

    I do like the derangement of the stomach, Snowy. But alas no recipe for tatties and neeps.

    The wearable sleeping bags at the top look grand.

    Wane.

  27. Wayne Mook says:

    What can I say I am a shadow of myself on the wane.

    Wayne.

  28. snowy says:

    It is odd that that N&T aren’t mentioned, esp. given she provided clear instructions on how to knit your own Haggis.

    [I wonder if they made it into one of the later revisions?]

  29. snowy says:

    Neeps and Tatties don’t appear in the 1907 revision either, but there are some new sections reflecting the influence of the wider Empire, [Anglo-Indian dishes had already appeared in the original].

    [The section entitled ‘Typical Australian Dishes’, will come in particularly useful for anyone that finds themselves suddenly possessed of a dozen dead parrots or a wallaby.]


    Historical footnote:

    Isabella Beeton died quite young, [at a mere 28 years], not from the strain of schlepping around Pinner tipping buckets of soup through the letterboxes of the unfortunate, but from puerperal fever, [a complication associated with child-birth]. She had lost control of her most famous work and the income it provided due to her husband’s business stupidity just 3 years after it was first published.

  30. snowy says:

    Before we put Mrs B back into her casket with a nice fresh stake and enrobe it in garlic-infused concrete, one final flourish.

    She had something of a taste for Gentlemans Relish, [stop sniggering at the back].

    Her recipe while simple, is a little labour-intensive, [lots of hard pounding], so I have taken the liberty of updating for modern times.

    Ingredients

    A 50g tin of Anchovies
    Milk, enough to soak fish
    50g Butter
    Ground Black Pepper to taste
    Ground Cayenne Pepper to taste

    Method

    Drain fish, soak in milk for 10-15 minutes
    Discover that you forgot to take the butter out of the fridge
    Take butter out of fridge, stare at it disconsolately – attempt to soften it by looking at it really, really hard
    Give up and cut off 1/5th of a block by hammering a cleaver through it with a rolling pin
    Rescue fish and milk from the attentions of the local cat population who think it must be Xmas
    Drain fish again, discard milk
    Add to fancy blender with butter and a dash each of cayenne and black pepper
    Fit lid, unless you really like washing grease marks off ceilings
    Blend until smooth
    Taste, add more seasoning if required
    Pack into a suitable clean container, cover

    Will keep for up to 4 weeks in the fridge, [as if it won’t be gone in a week!]

    Makes 80g

    Cost £1.00

    [It may also be made in bulk and frozen:
    Make a batch by scaling up above quantities
    Roll into a log and chill untill firm enough to slice
    Wrap up resulting disks and freeze until needed]

  31. Ian Luck says:

    I’m very taken with the idea of Mrs Beeton pouring soup through people’s letterboxes. A lovely mental image. Signs on front doors appearing, saying things like:

    NO Beggars, Mendicants, Hobbledehoys
    Brush Salesmen, Knife Grinders, Gipsies,
    Pure Finders, Ocadobastards, Toshers,
    Guttersnipes, Praxinoscope Men,
    Flying Nannies, Divvies, etc.
    SOUP POURERS WILL BE SHOT.
    Thank you.

  32. Wayne Mook says:

    uses of gentleman’s relish, just read Lord Dunsanny’s Two Bottles of Relish.

    After reading that Ian I suddenly thought of the old line, ‘Bill Stickers is Innocent.’ What can I sat about that joke, it doesn’t matter if you weren’t there.

    Wayne.

  33. Ian Luck says:

    Mrs Beeton was rather inconsistent – I’ve read, and I think it was in Bill Bryson’s lovely ‘At Home’ book, that early on in her book, she rails against tomatoes, saying that they are virtual poison, then, many pages on, there’s a recipe for cooked tomatoes. Makes you wonder how much of her book was actually written solely by her. Either that, or her proofreader (if one was even employed) was shite.

  34. snowy says:

    No time to look it up, but from memory – there was some association between the tomato and deadly nightshade, which was doing the rounds at the time she wrote. Tomatoes have a slightly strange history in British cooking.

    She compiled rather than wrote the original book, the only recipe that is attributed to her is that rather nasty soup. After 1861 the book and the name ‘Mrs Beeton’s’ was owned by the publishers ‘ Ward & Co.’, [Her husband with all the business sense of a particularly dim mollusc, sold it to cover some other losses].

  35. Ian Luck says:

    Snowy – Tomatoes and Potatoes belong to the Solanaceae, or Nightshades. The confusion would be legitimate, as parts of both plants can be toxic. Potatoes, once they sprout ‘eyes’ or have turned green, can be very toxic indeed, even if cooked.

  36. Helen Martin says:

    It’s why you store potatoes in the dark, but tomatoes, if poisonous at all, are not so in their fruit. Tomatoes were called “poison apples” before they became “love apples”. I wonder if that was an attempt to change their image.

  37. snowy says:

    The world can be strange, I had finally got back to reading ‘Quick Curtain’ by Alan Melville, [a very enjoyable read it is, I shall be very sorry to finish it].

    And who’s name leaps up from the first page of Chap. 9? Lord Dunsany,, the omniscient narrator mentions one of his tales in passing, [a little digging reveals it to be ‘Bureau de Change’ – a mysterious shop that can only be found once; the shop sells nothing, but specializes in exchanging evils].

    [Looking him up, reveals an interesting chap, prolific and influential. And this is why my list of books to find never gets any shorter!]

  38. Helen Martin says:

    Have Quick Curtain on order from the library. Some selfish person has had it overdue since Oct. 15 so I have no qualms about snatching it from their hands, finished or not.

  39. Ian Luck says:

    Snowy – I believe Lord Dunsany, who, like Arthur Machen, wrote some beautifully dark tales, and who should be far better known, had an experience that might have been the basis for several well known stories. One night, he was woken by a dream, in which he saw a man walking down the road, carrying a coffin on his back. As the man drew level, he stopped, looked at Dunsany, grinned, and tapped the coffin, saying:
    “Plenty of room inside, sir!”, and started laughing as he walked away, at which point, Dunsany woke up in horror.
    About a year or so later, Lord Dunsany was abroad, staying in a large hotel. Wanting to go downstairs, he called the lift. When it arrived at the upper floor in which his room was located,
    the door opened, and Dunsany saw that there were some other people in it, which was fine. However, the lift operator turned round, and Lord Dunsany found himself looking at the grinning face of the man in his horrid dream. Worse, the lift operator said:
    “Plenty of room inside, sir!”
    Horrified, Dunsany refused the lift. The doors shut – and it dropped like a stone into the basement, killing everybody inside.
    E.F. Benson based his story ‘The Bus Conductor’ on this, which was used as a segment in the brilliant Ealing Films ‘portmanteau’ ‘Dead Of Night’.

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