published 1971 introduction
What I could have done with, right from the start, was a cookbook… tailored to the tastes and limitations of a greedy pauper. No talk of truffles and peach-fed hams and chickens simmered in champagne in this book to lead them astray or make them discontented. But no half-hearted trickery with a tin opener and a pinch of herbs either. This book would deal with good solid rewarding food but – and this would be its great advantage to people like myself – all the recipes would be so cheap that one would be imperceptibly, painlessly condition to buy and cook economically and well. It stood to reason that there must be a good few other people in my situation, trying to conjure good food from limited cash, battered old pots and pans and kitchens more nightmarish than dream. What a blessing for us all such a book would be, I thought, and waited for some highly qualified expert to leap in and write it.
observations: OK no clothes connection. At all. But Jocasta Innes died last week, and that is something that should be marked: her Pauper’s Cookbook inspired a generation of flat-sharers and bedsit-dwellers. Her Paint Magic may have had a bigger effect on their décor (particularly when they found they had more money and a place of their own), and the Pauper’s Homemaking Book was full of superb and practical ideas. But it’s the cookbook that still lives in many a kitchen. I recently ate an onion tart at quite a fancy restaurant, and thought ‘that was nice, but not as good as the Pauper’s Alsatian Onion tart’ – a best-ever, Top 10 recipe for a dish that costs pennies, tastes like a million dollars, and is perfect for entertaining.
There’s an updated edition, which I recently bought for a first term university student. But I will stick with the early one, where she doesn’t even assume the reader has a fridge, gives us a whole section on ‘slimmer’s salads’, and tells you how to make beef tea, that staple of Ladys Bountiful in novels of long ago.
Links on the blog: This is the book for all those flat-sharing or making-their-way women we feature so often in Clothes in Books, students or in their first job:
The Girls of Slender Means – where the message is really, don’t eat, stay thin.
The Best of Everything – cooking probably only as a means of catching a man.
The Valley of the Dolls – too busy taking drugs to eat.
An Experiment in Love - who is that toying with her chicken? Could it be….
The Dud Avocado – Sally Jay Gorce fails the dinner party test.
The picture, of a frugal housewife, is from the UK Ministry of Information.