The cajolings of spring

I love seasonal cookery books which follow the yer with recipes for what is in season. One of my most used is The Reader’s Digest Cookery Year. I have had it for donkey’s years and still use it frequently, consulting it for all sorts of different ingredients and recipes. Another book I like a lot for the look and feel of it as well as the recipes and meal suggestions – ‘English With A Difference: A Seasonal Cookery Book’ from Steven Wheeler. However the one I look at most frequently, enjoying reading it as well as trying some of the ninety year old recipes, is The National Mark Calendar of Cooking, written by Ambrose Heath and Mrs D.D. Cottington Taylor.

This is what a wrote a while ago about the entry for March:

Continuing to work my way through the  Calendar of Cooking, the little booklet produced by the government to promote healthy and economical cooking using local and home produced fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat standardised by the National Mark, and we have reached March. Each month has a delightful introduction, instructing the housewife, and encouraging her to be innovative and interesting in her cooking… and it was mainly women who cooked at home in those days. As the majority of the country were Christian there is a mention of  Lent, the period of fasting in the religious calendar.

March is Winter’s last bluster against the cajolings of spring. Intemperate and rude, he cares little for the children of field and farm who now await our tables. The country markets rouse themselves anew, and National Mark ducklings and chicks are fattening in their pens. But the housewife must not be misled: she will do well to keep her eyes still on the soups, for winds do blow and uncannily find out our tender corners. So let us brace ourselves with soup, before the summer steals away our appetite for it.

She can begin to think more easily of salads, for the watercress beds are stirring, winter lettuce is ready for cutting, and spring onions can be had.

Lent is march’s legacy, and for those who abstain often a difficult time, when invention fails beyond the section of fish. But let her turn her mind to eggs and their multiform variety, and to vegetable dishes delicious and substantial enough to stand as a meal by themselves.

And how easily the month’s vegetables led themselves to her plan – some braised chicory, a spinach soufflé, the last few Brussels sprouts graced with a shower of cheese. Tomatoes and cucumbers are the new visitors; and apples have not left us yet.

if abstinence is the rule, she can learn more from it in discovering or evolving new dishes; if it is not, the discoveries and their delights are still awaiting her.

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