Saturday, June 14, 2014

Smells like imperialist spirit

Paging through The Margaret Rudkin Pepperidge Farm Cookbook (illustrated by Erik Blegvad, copyright 1963, although mine is a 1970 printing) on a sunny back porch is a terrific way to spend the afternoon if you, like me, have an introverted streak twelve miles wide and fifteen deep plus an inexplicable love of old cookbooks.

The recipes are accompanied by playful drawings (Blegvad is primarily known for illustrating children's books), and there is an entire chapter on antique cookbooks. Rudkin is not kidding about antique, either. Her collection stretches back to the fifteenth century!

Here is just a taste:

Old cookbooks (the "1663" above the title indicates the date of the cookbook from which this particular recipe was taken) usually included recipes for home remedies too, so if you wonder about the explanation following the "recipe," it's because this is a medicine.

Rudkin usually includes modernized versions of the recipes too, in case readers want to try them, but she admits defeat with conserves of violets and lets this recipe stand on its own.

A book like this may just send me into charm overload, but I am saved from disappearing into a puddle of nostalgia for times I can't even remember by the "ethnic" recipes:

Suddenly, I don't miss living in a time when using broad stereotypes as a "cute" illustration could go unchallenged.

Or when any mention of curry could smell just as strongly of a longing for empire:

Sometimes, though, a faint glimmer of self-awareness may peek through:

Our bobble-headed and mustachioed Brit may be a bit of a joke himself. At least I can hope....


  1. I love how the British swine are still enjoying their tea atop the elephant. They kind enough to include their "guide" :-)

  2. When I go to an Indian restaurant, I always love watching the word "curry" waft delicately up from the food as they bring it out.