Friday, July 7, 2017

80,000 Page Views Guest Post by Lady Addle

As usual a guest post to mark some significant number of page views of this blog. And this time I have prevailed upon someone who is, as Granny Weatherwax would put it, an old friend, and practically a witch. Here she is sharing some of her household hints from the war years, and if these may seem irrelevant to a witchcraft blog, well you only have to look at the domestic origin of most of the symbols of the witch: the cauldron and broomstick, and so on, to see that this is a subject very closely allied to witchcraft.
On Soup
'Game and chicken stock is wellnigh impossible. Beef and mutton stock often hard to come by. But is there not one species of game which the Government tells us to hunt, and hunt with a will? I refer to the rat.
'Rat stock (young and tender rats are best) is made on just the same principles as all other stocks. But be careful to skin your rat first. I omitted to do this the first few times, and I must confess that the soup did taste rather hairy in consequence. Now I flatter myself that I have brought my "Bisque d'Horreur," as I playfully call it - for who has not a horror of the live rat? - to a fine art. (Even Addle, the only time he ate it, complimented me on the title.) My evacuees take it with plenty of Worcester sauce, but that is of course a matter of taste.
'Sherry again is an impossibility to-day. But why be so conservative with your flavouring? Ginger-wine, lime-juice cordial, even a little coffee essence will make your soup distinctive and unforgettable.'
On Fish
'It has become a necessity during the war years, I know, tpo buy fish we would only have contemplated for our cats, even for the servants' hall of yore. Cod, hake, some upstart fish calling itself rock salmon, another one called husk, with a far from pleasant appearance. But the manner in which we cook them lies in our hands. The French, I have often thought, are so clever int he way they make the simplest fare appetizing, and perhaps I have inherited something of this flair from an ancestor in the eighteenth century who was, I believe, half French. At any rate I delight to experiment with such dishes as Dabs Dieppoise (with winkles and shrimps in a little custard, which looks very much like the original sauce, though it doesn't of course taste quite the same), Grade A Salmon meuniere, and Husk bonne femme.
'The last was the cause of an amusing incident. Sole bonne femme is, of course, cooked with a white wine sauce and sliced mushrooms. I was anxious to try this for I had been to a very interesting lecture at Harrods on the subject of Fungi, at which I had taken copious notes. All promised well. I gathered my fungi, sliced and cooked them, made my sauce with a little ginger ale I had by me and proudly served it up. My evacuees pulled rather long faces, I thought, but of course they were not used to French cooking and we English are very insular about such things. But in the middle of the night first I, then one by one, my guests, were suddenly taken violently ill. Wondering what on earth had happened, I staggered to my note-book and looked at it again. I then realised that I had stupidly neglected to read the word "not" in "These must not be eaten." My poor evacuees took it all in good part - I told them it was right to suffer in the cause of science! - but I was very ashamed of my silly mistake, and insisted on treating them all to a day in Watford, which they assured me would put them right sooner than anything.'
On Paper for Salvage
'Paper is the Salvage need which I feel most acutely. Indeed, I think the word 'paper' will be found graven on my heart when I die as 'Calais' was on poor Mary's. (A distant cousin of my mother's family.) I frequently write long letters to my friends calling for replies, so to add the answering epistles to my paper sack. I am also trying very hard to make my dear Mipsie part with some of the trunk loads of letters which she has ahd during her life, letters from the highest in the land, expressing their admiration and devotion to my beautiful sister. But so far I have had no success. 'My love letters are my capital, Blanche,' she says, smiling her roguish smile. 'There is many a letter in that trunk that is better than a five-pound note. You never know when a poor man will come into a fortune and you can never be sure when an old letter will produce a dividend.' Dear Mipsie. Friendship has always meant much to her, and it is like her to think of her letters as so many treatures.'
On Rabbit
'Game is no longer unfortunately our daily fare (though Mipsie tells me she gets plenty - but of course she is a brilliant housekeeper) so hints on cooking it seem out of place. But rabbits are still occasionally obtainable, so I will tackle them.
'The best way to skin a rabbit is to get your gardener to do so. If you have none, ask one of the tradespeople, who I find are always obliging and kind. But how to cook them when skinned? (The rabbits, I mean.) They are rather tactless creatures and don't go very far with feeding a large number. I will tell you how I got round this the other day.
'First, I jointed my rabbit and rolled each piece in powdered ginger. Then wrapped them in strips of tripe and baked them. It was a highly successful dish both from the culinary and the economical angle. For my evacuees ate every scrap of tripe, leaving only the rabbit, which I mined and served up later in the week as savoury mock chicken croquettes. What was left of these (quite a lot, it happened, because my evacuees had had baked beans for tea, they told me, so they weren't hungry) I put as a stuffing in a ginger sponge which I bought in a packet. Again, every bit of the sponge was eaten, and I was delighted to have the rabbit for my all too meatless pig bucket.'
From Some Memories of Breakfast
'Talking of breakfast habits reminds me of a distant cousin of Addle's, Sir Henry Hirsute, who insisted on a pair of kippers every morning of his life. As he lived at Cannes this sometimes presented no little difficulty, and his devoted chef used to spend long hours salting and colouring soles and inserting little kipper bones in them. One day, it struck the butler, who always had to remove the bones before Sir Henry started eating, that chef's labour was unnecessary. All that was needed was a plateful of bones on the side table in case their master happened to look there. This deception continued for years, until suddenly it occurred to Sir Henry that the soles did not taste like kippers. Somehow the whole story came out; he dismissed both servants instantly, but in later years appeared to repent of his action, for in his will he left both men a beautiful kipper bone in a glass case, a gold plate affixed to the spine commemorating his employees' devotion.'
Mary Dunn: Lady Addle at Home. Black Swan, London, 1986. Pp. 11-12; 25-6; 33; 39-40; 84-


  1. I know you've brought Lady Addle to my attention before (reasonably recently, I seem to recall), but I haven't yet got around to reading any of her books. So now, with this post, you have piqued my curiosity again - Most amusing!


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