I spent a couple of happy hours down memory lane yesterday thanks to a new “old” cookbook which I was lucky enough to be given to review “All in the Cooking.”
When I actually held this little gem in my hands and saw the familiar black & white cover the memories just came flooding back, after school and weekends were all spent in my Nana’s. She was the one who introduced me to baking and taught me how to bake from this same book. This was her “Domestic Science” book from when she was in school in the late 1940’s. She only stayed in school till she was 14 and when ever I asked her about her school life she said the only happy memory from her school days was this book and her Domestic Science Class.
Battered and torn, stained with flour & butter, with scribbles on nearly every page it was her sacred bible, never put away, always on her kitchen counter with her brown baking bowl and wooden spoon. No fancy equipment in those days!!! Forget about your Kitchen Aids or K-mix, if you had a hand whisk you were lucky!
The book was brought back by popular demand by O’Brien Press. It was first published in 1946 and this “new”edition has a lovely foreword written by one of the original authors Anne A. Brown now age 97.
Of course there is no doubt it will be a huge hit with a certain generation – “Our Grannies” and also some mum’s too, as it was still used in some schools well into late 1970’s. I love the way this new edition has kept the same type of print, with no pictures , as the way it was with books in those days. Still full of diagrams and information about food preparation, and cooking skills that seem to have disappeared with a generation but are still so relevant to-day even with our modern equipment. Ok time has moved on and we now have fridges that can can tell us when our food has gone off, and are able to switch our ovens on at home from our phones, but we still need the basics and that is why this book is still so relevant to-day.
One of the very first things Nana taught me how to cook was a “Soda Fruit Cake”. She never ever used buttermilk just kept the end of a glass bottle of milk till it was sour just especially to make this!
Funny enough it was also the first thing I ever baked in our Home Economics Class in 1st year . I remember having an argument with the Home Economics teacher because I wouldn’t follow the recipe she was using. I insisted on using this one , it was imprinted in my memory. I think it was the “thing” then that every Irish girl had to know how to bake a soda bread and to stick the cross on it to let “the devil out.”
My Nana always baked in ounces (ozs) “none of that fancy grams stuff” as she would say . The recipes in the book are still printed in ozs but the book now comes with a very handy little conversion bookmark.
The very same “Fruit Soda Cake” gets baked every Sunday in my house , come hail or shine . It’s become a family tradition, soda bread gets baked before the Sunday dinner goes on, never after because the oven is too hot!
There is no way I could write this post without mentioning the Raspberry Buns or “Jammy Buns” as they were known to me. Not a week goes by where there’s not a batch of these in the oven.
These were the second thing Nana taught me to bake. I’ve baked these same buns since my kids were very small. They are without doubt the absolutely favorite bun of my son Adam who is now 19. No birthday is complete with out a plate of these beside the birthday cake.
I made him plates of these during his Leaving Cert and through Collage exams. He swore they helped him study!!!! He still remembers kneeling on the stool and putting his thumb print in the buns before they were baked. These little thumb prints got bigger every year. It’s really wonderful how a simple bake can be the most perfect cake in the world especially when they’re full of memories like this one.
The chapter on “invalid cookery” made me smile.
Nana hadn’t much time for Doctor’s she was of the “feed a cold and starve a fever generation”. I suffered very badly with tonsillitis as a child and there were many times I just couldn’t swallow anything . She would always make me her “Special Medicine” a cup of Arrowroot and feed it to me on a teaspoon.
She swore it cured my tonsillitis ( I had them removed when I was 10 and she still brought a tub of arrowroot up to the hospital and made sure the nurses gave it to me.
There are definitely a few recipes in the book that I am going to try out on my own kids..Liver and Bacon for one . This was her dinner every Wednesday and anybody else’s who happened to be there. It was served with mashed potato and gravy. She always put onions in hers
Also an absolutely great little gem is the recipe for “Baking Powder” which I still use to this day because I always seem to run out.
It’s been a very long time since I actually sat down and “read” a cookbook. It’s so easy just to hit google on our tablets and phones for a recipe, but “ALL IN THE COOKING” really is a gem, a cook book that deserves pride of place in every Irish kitchen. Full of practical information that’s still relevant today, this wonderful book will definitely be on a lot of Christmas lists this year and hopefully will lead to more generation of Nana’s and Grandchildren baking and cooking together and making memories to treasure forever just like I did.
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Disclosure: “All The Cooking” cookbook was provided to me by O’Brien Press for review at no cost & all opinions expressed are my own. All reproductions printed courtesy of O’Brien Press. The book is available in all good book shops priced at 16.99 euro