A word about austerity

The word about austerity doesn’t come from me but from Philip Harben the first ever TV chef. I have mentioned many times how mad I get at criticisms of British food, especially British food in the fifties, and how it was only rescued by the miraculous continental cooking which enlightened our cooks and chefs. I read an article in the Waitrose magazine by Anna del Conte who was very disparaging about the food she experienced when she first came to London in 1950 at the age of twenty-five… the same age as my mum who was an amazing cook. According to her, British food didn’t improve until the 1970’s which coincided with the publication of her cookery books… I don’t think she was suggesting it was her books which caused the supposed revolution. However, I remember fabulous food and great restaurants in Bristol and Manchester in the late 1960’s… and here in little Weston-super-Mare we had one of he best chines restaurants I have ever eaten in, the Wun Wah.

This is what Mr Harben writes and it explains completely the state of British cooking; he wrote this in 1946, after six years of war and while there was still strict rationing… which continued until July 1954.

And now a word about Austerity. I am writing this  at a time when we are heartily and miserably sick of that dreary word. But we are in the midst of a world famine, and no-one can foresee what food will be in the market when this book appears in print.
Therefore I have based my recipes on the assumption that the rations will be very much as they are now (September 1946) but I am assuming that you are prepared to take a little extra trouble and even save up a few days’ rations for the sake of an occassional gastronomic spotlight to pierce the gloom. For instance, on present rations you cannot buy a rump steak every day (at that time each adult was allowed 12 ounces of meat per week, plus 8 oz of bacon or ham) But once in every so often you can certainly do so…
… All those dishes which cannot be done in the present state of world affairs I have held back in the hope of better times…

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