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.
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 ?
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.