Rant Of The Day THIS RANT 04/09/96

Rant Of The Day is where I get to mouth off about whatever I feel like for however long I like. Theoretically, I'll update my whinge/opinion piece every weekday; in practice, maybe not so often.

In the kitchen at parties

One of the strangest cookery books ever devised is The Country Women's Association Of NSW Cookery Book Home Style Cooking. According to the cover, this book has sold over 250,000 copies since the Coronation (1937). Explains a lot about Australia's health problems.

As you'd expect in a CWA cookbook, the emphasis is on good old-fashioned recipes that keep the men fed and the women tied to the kitchen. Attachment to things past is evident right from a comment in the opening pages:

The Country Women's Association of New South Wales acknowledges the introduction of the Metric System of Weights and Measures by including a Cookery Temperature Guide and Metric Conversion Table overleaf. To avoid confusion the measurements used in the recipes remain in imperial units at this time.

Despite this conviction, many of the recipes dispense with quantities altogether, and make use of ingredients you don't see a lot in current recipe books (lard, for one, features prominently). But there's also some serious attempts to make sure some of those stranger ingredients have been used in a way consistent with the needs of Mrs Smith of Galargambone:

In the following recipes the ingredient bicarbonate of soda has been referred to either in this way or perhaps more commonly known as carb soda. Either way the substances are identical.

I'd love to impose some order on my favourite quotes from this tome, but frankly their isn't time. So I'll just string a few bits and pieces together in random order ("what else is new?" I hear you cry). Let's kick on with the CWA guide to canapes:

Literally a canape is a small piece of bread of suitable size and shape, either fried or toasted. Modern substitutes for bread are the many intriguing wafers and crackers. Transform them with the whisk of a pastry brush dipped in beaten egg and a moment's browning under the griller flame. But, whatever the foundation, it is the spread or filling that gives a canape its individuality. The majority are improved by early mixing and a rest in the refrigerator.

Sounds like quite a good strategy for most parties I attend (and I'd love to meet an intriguing cracker). But I'm keeping you from learning about cooking lobsters in an ethically sound way:

To cook, experts recommend plunging the lobsters while alive into boiling water. Some people, however, prefer the more humane way of drowning the unfortunate creatures in fresh water, an expedient which they claim also makes the meat more tender.

Should you be 5000 miles from the nearest lobster, though, there's always chips, and anything else that can be improved by the mass addition of saturated fats:

The fat is only hot enough for wet frying when a bluish smoke arises from it. From 2 to 4lb of fat will be required and the same fat can be used over and over again if carefully strained after cooling. The great heat of the fat purifies it and kills flavours. An old iron saucepan is best, but the new frying baskets are supplied with saucepans to fit and are excellent.

The CWA warms to this 'fat going sour in old saucepans is good' theme as it moves on to a discussion of pork:

Pork, to be digestible, needs to be very well cooked. Underdone pork is dangerous. It should be so well done that there is not a tinge of pink in the gravy that runs from it. Choose pork with a moderate amount of fat. Very lean pork is poor in flavour; very fat pork is wasteful.

Please note that the excess fat won't give you a heart attack, it's merely wasteful (and could probably be used to top up that saucepan). Beware of killer pork roaming the streets at night. And remember the fundamental rules of cold veal:

PRESSED VEAL IN ASPIC Cold veal is only good with its jelly. It must be roasted expressly and well seasoned, so as to be eaten cold, and when cooked should be placed in a basin which is rounded at the bottom. On this you then set a plate to weigh on it. The gravy is poured on and sets in a jelly. Leave until the following day, when you will have a joint of a fine shape.

We suspect the shape would be flat, but we're too scared of the recipe to be sure. Maybe we'll do something overindulgent and unnecessary while boiling the ham:

If liked, when the ham is cooked remove the liquor and pour 2 bottles of Marsala over, simmer for just a short time. This, of course, improves the flavour greatly, but is rather extravagant.

And what better point to close on than fried tripe?

Tripe treated in this manner is delicious. First boil the tripe well and then when cold dip each piece into batter and fry in dripping until crisp. Serve with hot parsley sauce.

Or perhaps not.

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