‘In a large squalid rooming house, where the landlord calls only to collect the rent and where the cleaning, if any, is done by an indifferent slut with no standards to maintain, adventurous cooking is perfectly possible.’
Chapter 1 of Cooking in a Bedsitter (Katherine Whitehorn, Penguin 1961)
Although so outdated and outmoded now, this little book was a huge hit in it’s time. It’s a bizarre throw back to a time prior even to Rigsby and Rising Damp. A time of boarding houses and live in landladies/landlords. Both of which still exist today but then, it’s what most people did when renting. Rent a room.
But I really like the sentiment, that you can cook good food with very little.
Though, I really struggled to find anything I really wanted to cook……..Scotch Woodcock is a tempting blast from the past. A dish that sings of gentlemen’s clubs and high tea but which I don’t think I’ve ever made.
Note to self: Anchovy paste on shopping list.
On my wish list is one of those beautiful ceramic jars of Gentlemens Relish from Fortnum’s. I occasionally go in, gaze at the jars, and always talk myself out of buying one as it just seems too extravagant…..
For each person, fry an egg (in butter if possible). Make toast, and while still hot spread it with anchovy paste. Top with the egg. (5 mins)
On chicken, Katherine writes…
Give me a bread and butter woman
I mean the real domestic kind
Whose heart-beat will quicken
On half a boiled chicken…
‘Chicken is a word that still has a faint air of extravagance about it; but in fact chickens are now being reared so fast and furiously that they are often cheaper than good meat. This has been the case in America for years, as the rhyme shows; from America, too, come some of the best ideas for cooking chickens not so much in whole as in part.
Unless you were planning to use the beak and giblets for a complicated soup, there is nothing especially reckless about buying your chicken in hunks, either fresh or frozen; and it is certainly saves a lot of medieval scenes with the guts and claws. Boiling chicken is cheaper – but not cheap enough, to my mind, to justify the extra hours you have to spend cooking it.’
Of course, recycling was nothing new……
‘You cannot do without it. It is your work surface, your floor covering, your splash mat round the gas ring itself; it is the only way you can stop the coffee grounds falling through the slats of a wicker waste basket, and the neatest way to bundle up the debris for getting it out of the room. The nicer your room, the more newspaper you must spread around.’
Cooking in a Bedsitter by Katherine Whitehorn. Penguin 1961 (my copy 1977)