Six Word Saturday: coolest picnic photo that I’ve seen

school girls small

School-girl picnic, Fife, Scotland, c. 1947-48. My mum (far right) and friends.

My gran’s old cookbook

My grandmother's cookbook - or what's left of it.

My grandmother’s cookbook – or what’s left of it.

Since I agreed to become the family archivist, my mother has been sending me photos and objects that are somehow associated with our family. Given that her flat is scheduled for re-modelling soon, I suspect her motives are more about de-cluttering her place than preserving the past, but I’m grateful that she’s not just chucking everything into a skip.

Tablet (yum). photo credit: David McKelvey via photopin cc

Tablet (yum). photo credit: David McKelvey via photopin cc

The latest parcel to arrive included a cookbook that belonged originally to my maternal grandmother. I remember it being used when I was a child – mostly by my dad for making tablet. For anyone who doesn’t know, Scottish tablet is like fudge only much, much better.

Zebo ad, from my grandmother's cook book

Zebo ad, from my grandmother’s cook book. Do the clothes and furnishings date the book to the 1940s?

I have no idea what the book is called or when it was published. For as long as I can remember, it’s been missing the cover and probably a few other pages. From the look of the illustrations, it’s probably from the 1940s.

I love old cookery books and this one is an absolute gem. I doubt I’m ever likely to make Potted Hough (a hough is the leg or shin of an animal), and I doubt the Big T would appreciate the recipe for Fried Steak which recommends cooking the meat for 15-20 minutes (until tender!), but judging by how stained the jam making pages are – these recipes are obviously really reliable.

An indication of my family's collective sweet-tooth; the jam and confectionery recipe pages look well-used.

An indication of my family’s collective sweet-tooth; the jam and confectionery recipe pages look very well-used.

Like a lot of old books of this type, it’s not just about cookery. There is a section on laundry – including care of your mangle, wringer and boiler (Chocolate Fish to anyone who can remember what a mangle even looks like), and even instructions on how to iron knickers (as if).

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this book is that it is completely devoid of “personality.” It contains no illustrations of the food, no anecdotes about the recipe and even without a cover to tell me its origin, it feels institutional – not personal. This is not a book which celebrates food; and that more than anything places it in more utilitarian times.