I love sleuthing around for old cookbooks. In them I find much inspiration. Basic Recipes: The Foundations of Modern Cookery by Marjorie Sheppard Fidler caught my eye in a seller’s collection recently. Carefully taking it off the shelf so as not to damage the jacket I was curious as to what I might find in this British book from the early 1950’s. I opened to these words:
How To Be A Good Cook
I have a cookery book three hundred years old, and in it the author, Hannah Wolley, says, “The cook ought to be very well skilled in all manner of things–seasoning of all things, and knowing of all kinds of sauces–also very saving, cleanly and careful–they ought to have a very good fancy. Such a one, whether man or woman, deserves the title of a fit Cook.”
This is still true and I would say, “Cook with the head, the heart, the hands and the tongue.”
The Head, because wisdom and sound common sense is the beginning of good cookery.
The Heart, because the cook who loves cooking and really finds pleasure in it will produce meals which have some character and will give pleasure as well as nourishment.
The Hands, because speed, efficiency and good manipulation are part of good cookery, and good hands are the cook’s best tools.
The Tongue, because good taste is the essence of good food and the cook should taste her dishes freely at all stages.
Head, heart, hands, tongue. I would add one more…The Ears. I have always listened to what my pots and pans say to me in the kitchen. Maybe it’s my music background and first career as a pianist. When at the counter with my back to the stove, I can hear when a sauce has changed consistency, and when my pies come out of the oven I listen for a gentle sizzle-whump of the crust and filling. When I hear this I know my pie is ready and done.
I wish I could find a bit more information on Marjorie. I think we would get along splendidly.
I did look around the web to find out about Hannah. I learned that she was born in 1623, was one of the most successful cookbook writers of her time and the first woman to have her name attributed to a cookbook. She was the first to attempt to make a living from writing about cookery and she left us four books full of recipes for cookery, remedies and confectionary.
Speaking of listening to things in the kitchen. I had to buy a new oven recently. I didn’t get anything fancy, expensive, or with a big name. I just need a workhorse of an oven. I’ll write more about that later, but after a week in the house, I am hearing a slight hum coming from the LED display. The repairman will be coming to see if we can figure out what it might be. Hopefully something small!