Sunday, December 21, 2008

There is some corner of a foreign kitchen that is forever England...

(image from Dover Publications).

Once upon a time a British resident of the Crown Colony of Hong Kong collected recipes from her friends to produce a cookbook in aid of the St. John’s Cathedral Michaelmas Fair. Her name was Lady Young and I found her book online. Reading it raises a number of questions.

Who were these people? Could they not afford a local cook, one that knew how to make beggar’s chicken, steamed dumplings and salt-baked prawns? Or did they simply carry their English culinary traditions with them everywhere, along with their passports and le five o’clock, immutably English and unchangeable? Oh, Lady Young did provide five pages of “Chinese” recipes including one for a sort of almond gruel made with Carnation canned cream, but everything else is straight out of Woman and Home and the Sunday cookery columns. For example:

Crab-Meat Casserole

1 can crab meat (6-7 oz)
1 can condensed tomato soup
Milk, ¾ cup, or half evaporated milk and half water
2 t. lemon juice
1 ½ cups soft breadcrumbs
Butter or margarine, melted, 2 T
Salt, ½ t.
Cayenne, dash (optional)
Hard-cooked eggs, sliced 3
Buttered crumbs, ¼ cup

Remove shell tissue and flake crabmeat, combine with soup, milk, lemon juice, bread crumbs, butter or margarine, salt and cayenne, mix well. Add eggs, mix lightly. Pour into greased casserole (1 quart) or 4 individual baking dishes. Sprinkle buttered crumbs over the top and bake in moderate oven 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned.

(If I were lucky enough to find myself back in Hong Kong and someone tried to feed me a casserole made with condensed soup, I would probably quietly garrote them and then head for the closest yum cha shop).

Italian Fish Pie

1 teacup boiled macaroni
2 teacups white sauce
1 teacup tinned peas
1 ½ teacups strained flaked tinned salmon
1 teacup diced boiled carrot
½ teacup grated cheese

Drain macaroni well and arrange half of it in the bottom of a shallow greased fireproof dish. Cover with the salmon, then with half the sauce. Mix the carrot with the peas and sprinkle evenly over the top. Cover with the remainder of sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake in a moderate oven, 350 degrees, for about ¾ of an hour. For six persons.

(I’ll let you find the recipe for tuna loaf with dill-pickle sauce by yourselves).

Golden Prune Salad

Prunes, cooked, 20
Oranges, seedless, 2
Carrot, grated fine, ½ cup
Mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon
Slat, ¼ teaspoon
Red apple, 1

Have all ingredients well chilled. Pit the prunes. Peel and section oranges, holding over bowl to catch juice. Combine carrot, mayonnaise and salt; add orange juice, blend. Fill each prune with 1 teaspoon of carrot mixture. Cut unpared apple into 20 lengthwise slices, removing core. On each plate arrange 5 prunes in center on bed of lettuce, surround with 5 orange sections alternating with apple slices. French dressing is good with this. Makes 4 servings.


dragonsue said...

If the Lord of the Lady's house is anything like the 'Lord' of my house, it doesn't matter where in the world he is, he still wants to eat the food he knows and trusts, which could be why the recipes look so 'British', lol.

Rebecca said...

It's a universal phenomenon. I believe the British call it "going troppo", translated in the US as "going native". Hence the discussions I read recently on expats in Spain between those who had bought on the beach in British enclaves, and those who had settled into the little spanish towns. Or the Americans in the beach towns in Mexico, are they any different? Even the Canadians I work with bring home tons of uniquely Canadian food on their trips home. Ketchup chips! There is nothing more evocative to one than the food of one's youth. It's why I still cook cornbread in cast iron skillets. And succumb to Wonder Bread and room temperature butter. Or mayonnaise sandwiches on wonder bread, God Help Me. Or my depression era mother will have dried out cornbread with buttermilk. Or bean sandwiches on white bread. We never outgrow the table set by our mother, and overseas, it brings a measure of comfort in a foreign culture, I think, no matter how much we may enjoy the culture, there's still no place like Momma's kitchen.

LOVE your blog by the way.

Anonymous said...

Thats an interesting blog and gives you something to ponder. I agree with what Rebecca said tho.. we all do tend to revert to what we grew up on.