The young housekeeper’s right hand

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I’d found an interesting second hand cookery book called The A1 Cookery Book; as with many such cookery guides published at in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the author of the edition I have was named by initials only, H.N.L.: it seems she was Helen N. Lawson. Try as I might I can’t find anything about Ms Lawson; I will persevere but I don’t think I am likely to discover more details of her life.. There is a name written inside the cover, B. Gleaden – at least, I think that’s who it is, it might be Gleafen, Gleapen – it’s Glea-squiggle-squiggle-squiggle. There’s an address, 9, Birds Grove which is probably in Knaphill, Woking. Another barely decipherable word, Tauutour/Tautoer is also inscribed, possible the name of the house in Birds Grove.There’s no date so no telling whether the mysterious B.G. bought the book as new in 1901, or second hand at some other time.

On the page which has the title and author there’s a stamp by a bookseller of Bristol, Hayward & Son, 1 Corn Street, Top Corner of High Street, BRISTOL; I must investigate next time I go to the city, Wikipedia says of Corn Street:

Corn Street, together with Broad Street, Wine Street and High Street, is one of the four cross streets which met at the Bristol High Cross, the heart of Bristol,.. when it was a walled medieval town… Corn Street, together with Broad Street, Wine Street and High Street, formed the earliest nucleus of Bristol. Ricart’s Plan of 1479, one of the first English town plans, shows Corn Street

On the corner where Hayward’s stood there was a High Cross, an actual stone cross. My book was sold in Bristol, but I bought it in Taunton – how it went to Woking, and back to Somerset I’ll probably never know!

One of the exciting things (well, exciting to me) is that former owners of old books sometimes leave notes and cuttings in them. IN The A1 Cookery Book, I have some note paper with three recipes on, and a cutting from the Daily Express; .I can only identify the paper because it has a small section of a strip cartoon, The Gambols which appeared in that paper from 1950. There’s no date on the paper, and i can’t tell if it was torn out and kept because it was advertising a Parker Knoll chair – the new ‘Lincoln’, price £10.15.0, or a Skirtex skirt, about 70/0- (seventy shillings) The Skirtex skirts were certainly popular in the 1950’s and 60’s, but once again, I can find nothing more about them.

The three hand-written recipes, written on the back of the cover from a Basildon Bond writing paper pad, are so typical of post war cookery – but I have absolutely no idea how I could possibly date them, except the hand writing style is similar to that of my mum and her sisters, so i guess the writer would have been born in the 1920’s. Here are her recipes:

Semolina jelly

  • 2 tbsp semolina
  • 1½ tbsp sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ pt jelly
  1. boil semolina in water,
  2. add sugar and dissolve jelly
  3. when beginning to set, whisk until light and fluffy

Apple Charlotte – BB

  1. layers of apple and breadcrumbs
  2. dots of marg (margarine)
  3. plenty of syrup
  4. bake well

Choc mousse – Eva

  • 2 dsp gelatine
  • 1+ pint milk
  • 2 eggs
  • sugar
  • cocoa
  1. heat milk and yolks (do not boil)
  2. add sugar, cocoa
  3. pour onto gelatine
  4. when cool whisk well
  5. fold in whites whisked

My mum didn’t ever cook anything like these recipes, they are not the sort of thing our family liked, but I imagine lots of others did, including BB and Eva!

PS the title of this post comes from a review of the book from ‘Woman’ magazine – ‘We have said enough… to suggest ‘The A1 Cookery Book’ is the young housekeeper’s right hand.’

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