7 October 2022

When the recipe for success is a cut above the rest

| Sally Hopman
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We hope this is not the sort of milk we think it is … but at least the fudge looks noice, different, unusual. Photo: Vintage Recipes.

It’s hard to imagine cooking something these days without first turning on a TV chef with a heavy accent and penchant for even heavier cream for his/her recipe of the day.

They’re on TV, stream as prolifically as a river, come from overseas and are rarely skinny so they must know what they’re talking/eating about.

But there was a day, a time when lime jelly salad – complete with mayonnaise and cottage cheese – ruled, alongside frankfurts in aspic, satisfyingly, in that order. And when you could eat a chocolate crackle without being arrested for grievous bodily harm to your arteries.

jellied vegetables

Then there was aspic. You could put anything in it or on it, and people often did, because it stayed put. Photo: dreamstime.com

Today we call them vintage recipes. Back then the success of your dinner party, and social status, depended on whether your frankfurts behaved or not. Bits of food that should have been allowed to just lie on a plate and not budge an inch, suddenly started standing up for themselves. Particularly sausages, or an unidentifiable “meat” product wrapped in something else’s skin. Sorry, wait, that is the snag.

They were the days when you could always find your favourite recipe because it was in an actual book, with pages – or at least one particular page which always fell open because it was so sticky with use, and dried-up unmentionables.

How fabulous is it then that one of the most modern forms of technology has restored these grand old days to our kitchens. Well they would if we had kitchens and not just a sink-ette, bench-ette and air fryer … they don’t quite cut it when it comes to constructing a six-layer, aspic-ed vegetable loaf.

READ ALSO What to do when you ‘meat’ a vegetarian

You know the sort of thing: only ever complete with book-ended hard-boiled eggs and legs of asparagus, everywhere. The loaf was made up of carrots, which some poor mug had spent weeks cutting to an identical size of neighbouring peas and weird little white things, also meticulously cut to size, that we really hope were potatoes.

Now that took creative powers, decorative strengths that sadly, are no longer with us today. Now we just use lots of modern stuff to get back to our colourful, tasty past. Like those fabulous folk at Trove who have gone through the old magazines, newspapers and recipe books to collect some great, and slightly less great, vintage recipes.

Seems everything back then was glazed in something, usually a liquified bodily organ – usually offal, clearly called off-al for a reason. Always too much tongue.

For some, these recipes are a wonderful blast from the past, a moment to reflect on the good old days of indigestion, obesity, that feeling when you open the top button of your pants and no-one saw you do it. (Sorry to break it to you, but someone always saw/heard you.)

Food tin

For a happy sandwich, how could you go past Treet – looks like a not-so-distant cousin, we think, of Spam. Photo: Treet.

Seems we get to a point in this brave new world, where the only thing safe – not necessarily to eat – but at least to reflect on, are the good old days. When your hair did go curly if you left the crusts on sandwiches, you didn’t go blind if you forgot to eat 12 carrots daily and tuna wasn’t outlawed in enclosed spaces.

Clearly the recipe for today’s success is more frankfurts, even more aspic – and a really sharp knife to cut up lots of colourful vegetables into a uniform size for the jellied vegie loaf. Sturdy stuff.

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