I’m really excited to have got a copy of Traditional Dishes of Britain by Philip Harben (not so delighted with the musty smell – any ideas how to get rid of it?) I love the way Mr Harben writes, his personality bounds off the page, he seems so enthusiastic about everything! His book is not just about British food and the recipes for some of the most famous, it is also, he says in the introduction, about the ‘historical, geographical, traditional’ food of this country. His introduction to his 1953 book, is definitely tongue in cheek:
If Britain enjoys the reputation of providing the worst food in the world she has no-one but herself to blame. For it is an old British custom to pretend we have no good food and do not know how to cook it. In fact the contrary is the case. Our repertoire of national dishes – by which I mean dishes that are particularly British and which are currently cooked by housewives, not just in hotels and restaurants – is the largest in the world. And our cooks – by which I mean not hotel and restaurant cooks but our housewives who have to fit cooking in amongst a host of household chores – for sheer technical skills are unmatched in the world.
His recipes cover the country, from Cornish pasties to haggis, from Welsh bakestone cakes to ‘the most wonderful fish in the sea’ – which is my favourite too, the herring.
I’m going to have a lot of fun, not just reading the book, but trying the recipes too!