It's been a dreich day here, which has matched my mood. There was sad news this morning and even before that I was finding it hard to settle. I had not anticipated how difficult going back into lockdown would be whilst the rest of the country is coming out of it. I thought it would be a continuation of the last 3 weeks, tiresome but not much more than that. Turns out it feels much more isolating when most of my friends are outside the lockdown zone. It's not what they're doing, but that they can start making tentative plans and I can't. But it can't go on forever and tomorrow will probably be better.
Whilst it was still sunny this morning A.A. Milne came up in a phone call with my mother. It turned out that I knew an impressive amount of trivia about him, almost all culled from years of reading Stuck In A Book. I think we had Winnie-the-Pooh books when we were children, but I don't remember much about them, haven't watched the Disney version, didn't finish 'The Red House Mystery' and haven't seen or read any of his plays or other novels.
I have had 'The Pooh Cook Book' for as long as I can remember though. It looks like the sort of book that was probably a very early present from my Godmother, and I have a great deal of affection for it. As a child I remember making the coconut ice and peppermint creams, and later using the pancake recipe.
It was first published in the early 1970s so there's a dependence on margarine that seems really nostalgic now. The last time I really cooked with it was in the 90's when I spent a year as a cook in a nursery. We used the cheapest possible margarine for cooking with, it was so revolting (smelt awful, felt awful, tasted awful and looked awful, it was full of pockets of oil - just disgusting) that I haven't used it since. To be fair if you want a good light sponge there's something to be said for a decent branded margarine though and maybe 20 years is long enough to have moved past that particular trauma.
Every time I look at this book I'm impressed with it. It's clearly designed to be used independently even by quite young children with the easiest recipes asterisked at the beginning. It starts with instructions for cinnamon toast intended for 'Smackereles, Elevenses, and Teas. Lunches and Suppers are slightly more advanced, but still written very much with a child learning to cook in mind. I love that there's a bread recipe complete with instructions on how to make different shaped rolls.
The inclusion of a cider cup for parties is intriguing; do parents still let their youngish children drink even very mildly alcoholic punches at parties? The recipe asks for 1/2 a pint of cider, 1/2 a pint of lemonade, 1/2 a pint of undiluted orange squash along with the addition of a few sprigs of mint and a sliced apple and orange. It's to be served with ice and says it will serve 6. I'm not entirely convinced by the squash in this, but with a bit of tinkering and carefully chosen ingredients it could be a decent low alcohol alternative to Pimm's.
Cocoa made with milk and honey sounds fabulous, and an old fashioned still orangeade excellent as well. I bet the honey and raisin scones are decent, and there's a peanut butter, chocolate and rice crispy concoction that I like the sound of too.
Unexpectedly for a book from the 1970s there's even a fruit centerpiece that actually sounds pretty in the Christmas section. It's for frosted fruit - you whip up some egg white, paint it in streaks down well polished apples or pears, and then roll them in castor sugar and let them dry. Grapes can be highlighted with little dots of sugar. I quite like the idea of doing this to some shiny red apples - would have loved doing this when I was a child.
Altogether 'The Pooh Cook Book' has aged really well. It doesn't have pictures of the food, but is full of quotes from the Pooh books and E. H. Shepard's illustrations so it still looks great. The honey based recipes for cakes, biscuits, and tarts, of which there are plenty, appeal to my adult taste buds, and it still feels like it would be a great way to get kids cooking. It looks like it's still in print too, which is somehow really reassuring.
Unfortunately the rest of Katie's books don't seem to have fared so well, if they're as good as this one I think that's a shame.