With the ﬁftieth anniversary of D-Day approaching fast, a new television series remembers how the staunch cooks of Britain made mincemeat of the U- boat blockade. Catherine Fellows confronts the powdered egg but is forced to make a tactical retreat.
Brawn and potato pie. fat-free sponge pepped up with cochineal and raspberry essence, scrag-end of mutton disguised as venison in a sauce of redcurrant jelly and tomato ketchup . . . The Wartime Kitchen and Garden, starting this Friday (5 November), must be the ﬁrst TV cookery series ever speciﬁcally devoted to awful food. Even producer Keith Shearer, just emerged from twelve nostalgia-steeped months of ﬁlming, has no illusions. ‘There’s not much in these programmes you'd want to cook or eat unless you really had to,’ he admits.
There should. however, be a great deal of historical interest in the recipes. Presenter Ruth Mott spent the war years working ﬁrst as a domestic servant, then as a resourceful wife and mother in her own kitchen. and it is these experiences that form the basis of the series. In a reconstructed 40s kitchen, surrounded by the culinary paraphernalia of the period, she uses a combination of dramatic re-enactment and straightforward direct-to-camera reminiscence, to show what life on the home front was really like.
Cooks had to be inventive and, with the help of rousing broadcasts from the Ministry of Food, they set about spinning out meagre rations of sugar and butter, making do with poor ingredients, and substituting the few foods that were readily available for those that were completely unobtainable. Ruth remembers, for example, making mock bananas out of parsnips and banana essence, and using white cardboard to ‘ice‘ a rather small cake for one of the many weddings that took place in the 40s. ‘We really used to disguise things as much as possible and they always said don‘t tell anybody what they‘ve eaten until they've eaten
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Something that wartime cooks, particularly in rural areas, became increasingly grateful for was homegrown fruit and vegetables. Whilst Ruth is battling to make pig's intestines tasty in the kitchen, co- presenter Harry Dodson, who spent much of the war ‘Digging for Victory’ in the gardens of various big houses, has another story to tell. It was heartbreaking for men like him to have to uproot plants they had tended for years to make way for tomatoes, marrows. haricot beans, and all the other nutritionally important things they were encouraged to grow for the good of the nation. But, like the cooks, the gardeners also got a lot of satisfaction from using their ingenuity to produce food in such difﬁcult circumstances.
It is well known that because of the higher proportion of vegetables consumed, nutritionally speaking the British diet actually improved considerably during the war. It was also the ﬁrst time that so much effort had been put into nutritional research. ‘What is ironic,‘ says Shearer, ‘is that while people were busy longing for all the things they used to eat in the past, from our perspective, we can see that
: during the war they were in fact ‘ moving into the future in terms of food.’
Many of the dishes that sound most unappetising to modern tastes are the endless attempts to replicate something else — the mock oysters, mock goose, and most unlikely of all, the mock fried egg. This delicacy is made of a slice of bread with a round hole in the middle ﬁlled with reconstituted dried egg and the whole thing fried in lard. No doubt it had a lot to do with needing the comfort of the familiar, but the wartime reluctance to relinquish the old ways still seems bizarre to those of us who would happily tuck into a plate of soya beans, but would turn our noses up if they were masquerading as mince in some bone-ﬂavoured gravy. Faced with the abhorred National (100 per cent wholemeal) Loaf, Mott’s reaction was to try to turn it into a white split tin. ‘It was so dry because of course they'd left so much in it. We used to rub it through a sieve sometimes and try and get some of the husk out of it.’ As for spuds, well:
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‘Those who have the will to win Eat potatoes in their skin, Knowing that the sight of peelings Deeply hurts Lord Woolton‘s feelings' They did it for Britain, but they didn’t even know that jackets are the tasty bit! The Wartime Kitchen and Garden, BBC 2. 8.30pm. Fridays from 5 November.
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I ccn Cate Bar 350 Sauchiehall Street, 332 7521. The enlarged and
I Cate II at the Queen's Hall, Clerk Street. 668 3456. ‘New name, new manager, new ideas' — to
One of Campbell’s tasks is to anticipate the requirements of the very different audiences that come to the Queen's Hall. Folk crowds, for example,
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have made way for pot plants and table service. and. under the same management as the busy October restaurant in Princes Square, the menu is broader in scope and more adventurous than before. Apart from the ﬁxed menu which
restaurant in one of Edinburgh’s principal music venues. Innovations include a less institutional-looking, more ‘customer friendly’ service counter, a colourful chalk mural, and a cappuccino/espresso machine: basically,
fuel them for dancing. SCO audiences are another kettle of ﬁsh entirely: sautéed chicken livers, salmon en croOte, caramel vacherin . . . Cafe Q is, perhaps, at its most civilised on Sundays. when it offers a traditional roast lunch as a prelude to
includes dishes such as beef creole or peat smoked haddock and dauphinoise potatoes for around £4, the cafe also offers breakfast, coffees, enormous sandwiches, and daily-changing lunch and evening specials. Open 9am-midnight, Mon-Sat.
nothing radical enough to rufﬂe those who knew and loved the place the way it was. They will still ﬁnd good wine by the glass. varied menus of freshly prepared hot dishes and salads at lunchtime, plenty of biscuits and cakes at tea time, and, of course. pre-concert nourishment.
the current series of Sunday afternoon classical concerts. Cafe Q is open Mon—Sat 10am— 5pm. lunch noon—2pm, and to concert goers in the evenings. It is also available for private functions - weddings, receptions, balls etc.
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The List 5-18 November I993 77