I have a lot of memories of playing with my Grandma’s and my Mum’s recipe books when I was a wee girl; the ingredients and pictures were fascinating. Even at my advanced age, I still read recipe books like they are story books, especially those written by Tessa Kiros. There exist recipes books within stories, as in the case of Laura Esquivel‘s Como Agua para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate). There exist recipe books as companions to stories, such as The French Kitchen: a cookbook, by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde, to bring to life the food eaten in the world of Vianne Rocher and her fellow characters. There exist recipe books as history, such as All the King’s Cooks: the Tudor Kitchens of King Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace, by Peter Brear (Souvenir Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0285638969). There are pretend cookbooks that I wish so much were real – most recently Geoffrey Fule’s cookbook, an English production of the 14th century (England, mid-14th century (London, British Library, MS Additional 142012).
There is one cookbook which has been part of my life as long as I can remember – The Glasgow Cookery Book. It was first published in 1910, as the official textbook of the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science, known locally as the Dough School.Both my Grandma, before she got married, and my Mum, who trained as a Home Economics teacher, are alumnae thereof. The Dough School no longer exists as they knew it, as it is now part of Glasgow Caledonian University; I feel that it falls to me to maintain the family tradition. I do not know when Grandma got her copy, but I presume that it was when she attended courses at the Dough School. My Mum’s copy was published in 1962; she also had Grandma’s copy, Grandma being too old to cook for herself. The first edition, intended as the school’s primary textbook, was compiled by the then Principal, Ella Glaister, and her staff. It was published by the Glasgow publishing house and bookseller John Smith and Son, founded in 1751 and to this day the main University bookseller for all Glasgow-based higher education institutions. Both of these copies are written in imperial measurements, which to this day I find easier to use – we may have been taught in metric at school, but in daily life we tend to use imperial – while my own copy is one of those published after 1975, when the book was first converted into metric. But the best part of the book by far is the glimpse that it gives into cooking practices that are in some cases less than fifty years old. Chapter Four of my edition is called “Meats and Offal”; it includes recipes such as Stewed Ox-Tail, which in turn reminds me of Grandma’s total shock when she went to the local butcher not long after Mad Cow Disease made its presence felt and was told that they could no longer sell oxtails. Her indignation knew no bounds, and this lack was not good for any of us, as oxtail soup is a rich dish indeed. When I was younger, my favourite recipe in the book was undeniably Sheep’s Head Broth; to this day it fills me with glee. The first line of the recipe – “Remove brains from head and soak in cold water” – and the note at the end – “Traditionally a singed head was used” are wonderful (p.25). I will admit that I would love to try to make this, but good as my local butcher is proving to be, I suspect that he may not be able to help me out here. But I will persevere.
This post was inspired by my using The Glasgow Cookery Book to cook a large and hearty pot of lentil soup. It brought back a lot of memories, and after a cold and tiring day, that time spent in the kitchen has revived me. If you wish to buy your own copy, the Centenary Edition was published in 2010 and is available on Amazon.
Some background details about the creation of this cookery book was found at the Glasgow Caledonian University website, on the Dough School alumni page (http://bit.ly/RCf292). When talking to Mum about it, she told me that there is also an archive relating to the Dough School history, held in the Special Collections Department of the Glasgow Caledonian University Library; this archive holds material dating back to 1875, when the school was established. I have since discovered that it also forms part of the Gateway to Archives of Scottish Higher Education (GASHE). Mum and I are now planning to pay it a visit as soon as we can.