The stockpot is the backbone or the kitchen… or is it?

Writing a cookery book in 1946, Philip Harben was offering recipes at a time when rationing was still in force and the war had only been over for a year. Cities had been bombed, people displaced, men (and women) away from home for six years or more. People had to work hard for long hours and hadn’t always the time to cook as they did pre-war even if they had the ingredients for what the wanted to prepare. Many people lived in single rooms, with small cookers or gas-rings, or shared kitchens, so cooking quickly was important, and that was the title of Mr Harben’s little book, Cooking Quickly.

He writes so evocatively, you really get a sense of him as a person!

For long as it has been laid down as an article of faith that the STOCKPOT is the Backbone of the Kitchen, the Cook’s Best Friend, the Foundation of All Cooking, and so on. This has discouraged many promising cooks. Don’t let it worry you, because it isn’t true.
Stockpot-worship is based on an old theory, now disproved and out of date, that the liquid got by boiling bones and meat scraps contains all the essential nourishment of the meat. In fact it contains the flavour and very little else. Moreover, this liquid flavour can be extracted in far less time than stockpot addicts believed – they went in for hours and hours of tedious boiling.
Now i am far from denying that a stockpot is a most useful thing to have in a kitchen, especially a large one where there is a big turnover of bones, scraps and oddments. It provides a constant supply, on tap, of flav0ursome liquid which for many purposes is more useful than tap water. But there are short cuts to this flavour-liquor and the short cuts are sometimes just as good as the long-way-round. There are on the market a number of preparations with such names as ‘meat extract’, ‘meat and vegetable extract’ and so on.

He goes on to recommend bottled extracts, including soya products, and although, as he says, they do not contain ‘the essential nourishment of meat’, they do have vitamins and minerals and ‘provide a most useful and stimulating flavour, invaluable for adding  zest to dishes cooked in a hurry.’

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