Tools of the Trade – The Housewife’s Cook Book

Once upon a time the head of the family, the husband, went out to work each day to provide for his family while the wife stayed at home and followed her trades  as a  cook, cleaner, laundress, nurse, etc.  And one of the tools she needed for her trade as a cook was a cookery book with detailed instructions on how to put those important meals on the table.

D2 Chas & Vera 1929Vera Tansey married in 1929 and is pictured here a few weeks after her wedding. She had provided herself with an Every Ladies’ Cook-Book by Miss Drake.

Mrs Drake Cookery Book Cover bAs you can see it has been well and truly used by my mother

Lucy Drake who had trained in London had been in charge of cookery classes at Swinburne Technical College in Melbourne.  Her salary when she started in 1914 was 12/6 a week.  The publishers of Everylady’s Journal decided Australia needed a cook book which was suited to our climate and our tastes and offered Lucy Drake a large fee to compile such a book. Swinburne College granted her six months leave on half pay  and she set off for Tasmania on holidays and went to work. Unfortunately a couple of weeks after the manuscript was delivered to the publishers she became ill and died.

It is a good cook book. The recipes are clearly explained and mostly still very usable.  It was a time when apart from a few saucepans you would probably have had a basin, a wooden spoon, a sieve or sifter , a mincer/grinder  to screw onto the table and not much else. You did everything by hand.   And you probably didn’t have refrigeration – at best an ice-box or a Coolgardie safe.  So I could understand why you were told  how your soup stock should be boiled up every day to keep it fresh.

I was happily browsing the recipes when I came to a full stop;.  How would you like to make some Ammonia Biscuits using a lump of Ammonia the size of a nutmeg ?

Ammonia Biscuits

I was shocked !  Ammonia !  But it wasn’t quite what I thought.  Ammonium bicarbonate was the forerunner of the Carb Soda and Baking Powder that we use today and it is still widely used today in commercial cooking as a raising agent and a stabiliser.

I try my best not to buy foods with a list of numbers in the ingredients but at last I know what one of those numbers stands for – 503.  Miss Drake’s cook book was first published in 1923 but now a digitized version is available  at http://images.swinburne.edu.au/handle/1111.1/5887

This version  is from a later reprint, 1940,  and includes pages of advertisements. And  should you wish to you can download the whole book or read it online.  I have nothing but praise for Swinburne or any other educational institution which makes information available free of charge.  Because of them I know a little more today than I did yesterday.

You might like to try Lucy Drake’s  Mushroom Sandwiches or Crullers (American) or Jelly Doughnuts or Bath Buns or ………

And so to everyone else’s interpretation of this week’s Sepia Saturday  picture with its street trader, tools of trade, menders, cobblers, etc.

2014.09W.13

 

 

18 thoughts on “Tools of the Trade – The Housewife’s Cook Book

  1. Lorraine

    I don’t know why I was shocked at the idea of eating ammonia. In those days the food was pretty much ‘real’ whereas today most packaged food has a list of ingredients that we don’t understand half the time. P.S. What’s a ‘carraway comfit? P.P.S. You mother’s dress is very sweet.

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  2. Little Nell

    That’s a lovely photo of the honeymoon couple. Thank you for sharing Miss Drakes’ cook book; it’s a fascinating book to flip through, not just for the recipes but also for the ads. I noticed that they ever missed a chance and even had them running at the top of each page!

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  3. La Nightingail

    So long as a recipe has no more than 6 or 7 ingredients & I can understand what they are without having to go to the dictionary, I’m interested. Otherwise, forget it. My ‘go to’ cookbook was given to me by my Mom when I moved out into my own apartment. It’s called “The I Hate To Cook Book” by Peg Bracken & has wonderful entries such as: Skid Row Stroganoff, Lamb Shanks Tra-La, Idiot Onions, Aunt Bebe’s Bean Bowl, & Hootinholler Whiskey Cake (yum!) to name but a few. Older cookbooks often list ingredients by pounds and pinches. One of the ingredients in a recipe of my grandmother’s for sweet & sour pink beans is: ‘A cheese glass of vinegar.’ – the glass in question being one Kraft soft cheeses come in.

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  4. hmchargue

    What a great take on the theme. I have my husband’s mother’s cookbook and my sister-in-law’s
    recipe book in which she’s recorded all of our family favorites. In used book stores, I go straight to the cookbook section looking for notes in the margins – my favorite bit.

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  5. gluepot

    I think several of the common E-numbers are actually common kitchen ingredients, but the use of them does “taint” the product somewhat. I think I’d rather prefer to see “ammonia,” but I guess they’d soon run out space on the label for many processed foods.

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  6. jmcguin7

    I had a an old cookbook like this that I gave to a cook book lover when we downsized. It had all kinds of instructions on dealing with your servants!

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  7. cassmob

    A clever spin on the topic! Reboiling the stock when it’s only been in the Coolgardie doesn’t not appeal and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like ammonia biscuits or the mushroom sangers (and I do like mushrooms). Like you I remember those basics in my mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens. Also like you I have a cookbook that goes back decades…my “go to” book was the Margaret Fulton cookbook which is tattered and stained, and is now only used for the Lemon Meringue Pie…fancy any?

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  8. Sharon

    A very enjoyable post, which made me think of a book that my mother had about women’s etiquette, which always made me laugh as I was a very independent young woman who worked while hubby stayed at home with the kids. It was largely frowned upon at the time, but now it is common place!

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  9. Wendy

    What a great keepsake that cookbook is. I have one that isn’t quite that old, but it calls for all kinds of things that require a little thought to figure out, for example, a cup of lard.

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  10. Barbara Fisher

    I picked up an Apricot fool in the supermarket the other day but put it back down again when I looked at the list of ingredients. The colouring agent was paprika powder! I don’t think that Apricot fool even saw an Apricot. I loved your post. The photograph of Vera Tansey is adorable.

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  11. Pingback: A School near a Police Paddock – Murtoa | Bound for Australia

  12. nyssamillington

    What a great article. I cannot imagine myself cooking without the use of Google for recipes these days. I’m glad you found the Ammonia Bicarbonate information from The Trusted Trolley useful in your article. It’s great to see people using our information and benefiting from our research. We’ve recently started a blog about all things additives and preservatives at http://thetrustedtrolley.wordpress.com/.

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