Wednesday, 10 October 2018

100 Years of Food - 1918

My friend Pat and I got to attend a centenary celebration for Northumberland Women's Institute. Two ladies there who are apparently well known for their excellent food, Sue and Dorothy, put on an event that combined two of my most favourite subjects: Food and History. They set out to cook dishes that recognised each of the decades between 1918, which marked the birth of this WI Federation, and the present 2018.

We were given a tea/coffee upon arrival and offered our choice of biscuits/cookies. We could have either some sugar free Fruit and Nut Bars (recipe from a 2016 Sunday Times) or Ginger and Oat Biscuits (from a 1924 cookbook, Home Baking). Though the sugar free option appealed, history won out and I didn't regret it.

During the presentation I scribbled notes, as usual, and grabbed photos whenever possible. I'm so glad I did, as there were too many fabulous dishes for me to recall without help. Before I begin, you need to appreciate that for the most part two ladies (plus the help of one other on a specific dish) prepared all of these dishes for about 40-45 women in attendance. The sheer effort demonstrates a real labour of love. So let's get started!

1918 - a Pork and Suet Pudding
Sue said she had to get up at 5 am to put this on. I've heard about these steamed dishes since coming to Britain. They never crossed my path in the US. So far as I can tell this dish is strictly English cooking.

Sue made a pastry and lined a bowl with it. This was filled with a mixture of pork shoulder, onions and a some shredded suet (brand name Atara, yes, you can buy this stuff in a supermarket). I don't know if it was beef or vegetarian suet. The bowl and its contents were all wrapped in some sort of fabric and set it to steam over a pan of boiling water. I would need to explore a lot more to replicate this dish. I'm pretty sure she said the bowl couldn't touch the bottom of the pan with water. I'm not sure of the function of the fabric, other than perhaps to hold in the heat. I can tell you it was delicious.  Poor folks' food in the past was always about long slow cooking.

1918 was the year WWI ended. Many men didn't come home and quite a few that did were seriously wounded. Women had gone to work to replace the men but many returned to being homemakers when the war ended. A lot of the women of that generation never married, having lost fiances and there being a shortage of men. The good news, however, was the women in Britain were given the vote; well, some women of means who were over 30. They couldn't give all women the vote as then female voters would outnumber men. Then again, not all men could vote before 1918 either. Typically British, nothing was simple. Read more about it here.

To be continued...


James said...

Hi Shelly, this is James I used to blog as "Man of the 50s". I was so thrilled to see your new posts. I always enjoyed your commentary on becoming British and the interesting things you were doing. You are one the people I often wonder how they are now. Good to see you're still going strong!

Shelley said...

Hello James!!! Yes, I often visit your blog to see if you're writing again. Hope you will some day. I'm just catching up on comments I've overlooked for nearly two years. How sad is that!? When I thought I lost my comment facility (no idea what led me to decide that) I felt I'd lost a whole community. Lovely to hear from you!

Jean | said...

Shelley, since I was reading the food history posts backwards, I just learned with this post of the WI connection--I might have known! Food history is fascinating, so I had to read all the posts. I grew up with British food (mother's side) and Southern food (father's side), so I make all the traditional foods from both.

Shelley said...

Jean - As soon as I read you were Southern, I went over to your blog to find a biscuit recipe! I can see my waistline has no chance at all anymore.