Cooking up a story in the 1960s

A snapshot of a page from the cookbook with its scribbled notes.

By Tom Gillespie

I CAME across an old cookbook my wife used when she was in college in Colaiste Mhuire in Tourmakeady in the 1960s.

It is turning brown, falling apart and the cover is missing. Many notes are written on the pages as Gaeilge. As readers will recall, the Tourmakeady college was, and still is, in the Gaeltacht area.

It is a relict of days past but yet relevant in many ways to the everyday basic cookery methods of the 2020s.

I had forgotten how much the French have influenced cooking terminology and there are two pages devoted to the explanation of the French cookery terms.

For example, remembering this cookbook was published in the 1950s, alphabetically – au gratin: applied to a dish which has been covered with sauce, sprinkled with grated cheese, then browned in the oven, and served in the dish in which it is cooked.

Au natural: applied to food served uncooked, or very plainly and simply prepared.

Baba: small yeast sponge cake soaked in syrup with rum or any other syrup.

Bain-Marie: a large vessel containing about four inches boiling water in which saucepans of food can be kept hot.

Bavaroise: a rich cream mixture, usually half custard and half cream mixed.

Beignet: type of fritter.

Bisque: soup made from shell-fish.

Blanch: put into cold water and bring to boiling-point, then pour off the water. This was done to whiten, to cleanse, to remove skin from nuts or to remove strong flavour.

Bouquet garni: bunch of herbs with other flavourings tied together. Wrap parsley and thyme stalks in a bay leaf and tie with thread or twine.

Canapé: rounds of fancy shapes of bread, toast, etcetera, on which small savouries are served.

Cassolette: a small case made of potatoes, purée for holding mince, etc.

Croissants: crescents or horse-shoe shapes of rich yeast bread.

Croquette: minced meat, game, potatoes, etcetera, coated with egg and crumb and then deep fried.

Croustade: a case of fried bread of pastry used for holding various savoury fillings.

Croute: piece of fried (or toasted) bread.

Croútons: fried dice or fancy shapes of bread.

Dartois: a sandwich of a very light pastry with sweet or savoury filling inside.

Entrée: a dish which is complete in itself, served after the fish course in a dinner.

Flan: an open case of pastry.

Foie-gras: preparation of goose liver.

Fricassée: a white stew of chicken, rabbit or to which cream is often added.

Galantine: a cold roll meat or poultry without bone, pressed glazed and decorated.

Gáteau: a cake, or a dish made in the form of a cake.

Gelée: jelly.

Hors d’oeuvre: small tasty morsels served before the soup to give an appetite.

Kromeskis: mixture of meat or any other savoury wrapped in bacon, dipped in batter and then fried.

Liaison: binding orb thickening used for soups and sauces.

Macédoine: mixture of vegetables or fruit cut in dice or fancy shapes.

Marinade: a mixture of vinegar or lemon juice, oil, flavourings and seasoned in which fish or meat is soaked before cooking to give additional flavour.

Menu: bill of fare.

Mirepoix: a mixture of vegetables and seasonings used as foundation for braising.

Mousse: a very light and spongy sweet.

Mousseline: a sauce of froth-like lightness.

Panard: mixture of butter, flour and a liquid used for binding, or as a foundation for soufflé mixtures.

Purée: smooth mixture of meat, fish, vegetables, or fruit, which has been reduced to a pulp and then sieved.

Quenelle: a smooth mixture of fish, meat or poultry shaped with a spoon and poached.

Ragout: a rich type of stew.

Rechauffé: reheat of fish, meat, or vegetables.

Rissole: mince of cooked fish or meat coated with egg and breadcrumbs and the fried.

Roux: equal quantities of butter and flour cooked over the fire for three minutes, and not allowed to colour unless wanted for a brown mixture. It is used for thickening soups and sauces.

Sauté-pan: a shallow stew-pan.

Sauté: toss over the fire in a small quantity of fat, until nicely browned.

Savarin: a yeast pudding.

Soufflé: a very light mixture which is generally obtained by the addition of stiffly-beaten whites of eggs.

Every possible instruction regarding cooking and hygiene, as it applied in the 1950s, when the book was published, is contained in the book.

Much of the advice would be redundant today. For example: Cleaning of oil stove – twin the wicks only when necessary. The japanned exterior should be wiped with a damp cloth and dried. The ovens are washed with warm soapy water, and must be kept free of grease.

Primus stove – remove the silent spreader and dust the burner. Use picket supplied to pick hole. Three-quarters fill container with oil. Clean outside, which is generally japanned, with a damp cloth.

Electric cooker – switch off current. While stove and oven are still warm, wipe with a damp cloth. Wash drip tray regularly. Any enamel parts may be washed with warm soapy water; care must be taken not to allow any water to reach the heating elements of hot plate or oven. Stains may be removed with a fine abrasive. Wash oven shelves in boiling water and washing soda. Rinse and dry well.

Gas stove – remove the bars, burners, and oven shelves, taking particular note of their correct positions, and wash them in very hot water and washing soda. Rinse and dry.

Wash enamel pans in hot soapy water. Stains may be removed with a little cleaning powder or coarse salt. Use a metal skewer to clean the holes of the burners. While the oven is still warm wipe with a damp cloth. A caustic preparation may be used on a neglected oven. Re-light for a few minutes to ensure that the pipes are dry.

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