Carrots, for example

It’s always interesting to look at old recipes, but even if I try to follow them sometimes they aren’t as nice to eat as I’d hoped. I used to think I’d somehow not followed the instructions in the right way (they are not always as clear and precise as modern recipes – for example oven temperatures can be slow, warm or fast!) Now I wonder if maybe tastes have changed or maybe ingredients have. Carrots, for example – when we have carrots, modern varieties are small compared to the ones gardeners used to grow, and bred to be sweet.

We had carrots for dinner the other night cut in rings, and they cooked in about six minutes. Looking at my old Modern Practical Cookery (published 1930) having given instructions for the potatoes accompanying dish ‘boil them in the usual way’, it instructs:

About two pounds of carrots will be sufficient (for six) Choose even-sized carrots rather than large ones.
Scrape and wash them well, put them into boiling water, with a little salt added, and boil until tender. They will take about one hour and a half.

The recipe goes on to suggest serving them with a white sauce made with extra cream. However, the cooking time – about one hour and a half… about one hour and a half!!! They must be a very hard and tough variety or else they wold just turn to mush! Even allowing for the fact they are whole and not in slices or sticks, they still wouldn’t take that long – for modern tastes!


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