In thinking of food crises…

Philip Harben, who was the first person in the world to be known as a TV chef, and in fact was known as the TV chef, had the magnificent full name of Philip Hubert Kendal Jerrold Harben. His mother was the actress Mary Jerrold,which is where that part of his name came from, his father was a Hubert; he was born in 1906 and had one sister, Joan who also became an actress.

He wrote many cookery books as well as presenting his TV programmes… and the little 1946 book I have, ‘Cooking Quickly’ is full of great ideas for doing exactly that, cooking quickly. In his introduction, he makes it clear he isn’t suggesting that cooking should be done quickly for any other reason than necessity ‘which is forced upon us for one external reason or another’. he writes in such an amusing way, and the situations he describes which he experienced seventy years ago, are just the sort of things which still occur today.

In the introduction he talks about food crises – coming home late from work and only having what is in the cupboard or fridge to make into a meal (less likely these days with take-aways and 24-hour shopping) – being unexpectedly more hungry than you ananticipated – having to improvise a meal for one reason or another.

He moves on to discussing arriving home with guests and having a meal for them; again, with our modern appliances such as microwave ovens. ready meals, slow-cookers etc, we don’t have such problems… or do we? He suggests the at the best solution to feeding guests arriving home with the host is a cold collation.

This is a particularly good arrangement if you are brining guests back with you and avoids that awful business of ‘Do let me help you – no, please, it’s quite all right – let me carry something in – please don’t bother, I can manage, it’s not at all heavy really – let me stir the sauce; oh! it’s quite all right, it’ll sponge off easily, only an old frock‘ – you know the sort of thing that happens when enthusiastic guests are let loose in the kitchen. Instead of all that, you go straight into the dining-room where the board is spread with a very handsome cold collation.

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