The National Mark Calendar of Cooking was published in the early 1930’s, and was intended to promote local and national produce, and to make the most of the seasons best; there are two authors, Ambrose Heath a cookery writer, and Dorothy Daisy Cottington Taylor. I am not sure whether Mr Heath did the introductions and additional comments and Mrs C-T did the recipes, or whether they collaborated… maybe they didn’t even have much to do with each other, being given a brief and told to write and work to it. Maybe she chose and provided the recipes which he then write about, or maybe they were both presented with recipes and had to decide on them… it’s all lost in the intervening years of great British cooking – apart from a little ten-year intermission during and after the war.

Her is their introduction to February; it’s written in such a heart and cheery manner, and having read other books by Ambrose Heath, I am inclined to think this is his work:

February marks the new year in steady progress. The housewife ha had her first trial of National Mark and is beginning to taste some of the joys of her new adventure. If she is wise, she will start to experiment a little, and learn that to buy (and properly deal with) a boiling fowl is not so extravagant as it may sound. She will find too, that the rather dull days of late winter and be enlivened by summer sunshine stored in National Mark tins, and a dish of green peas or some delicious summer fruit will evoke memories – possibly of those very gardens and orchards where they were grown.
Healthy appetites will need more nourishment in this inclement weather and consideration of the cheaper cuts of National Mark beef will teach her how to save and serve good food as well.
A breath of spring comes with the first appearance of those slim pink sticks of rhubarb, and she can still count on a good supply of apples for dessert or cooking. A good time to pore over a cookery book, with one’s toes to the fire and half an eye on the clock.

What an evocative picture is painted; a 1930’s house with a coal fire, no double glazing but thick curtains, probably no central heating, polished floor boards, natural fabrics and woods, a radio playing – only one channel available, what was known as the Home Service, the Light Programme and the Third Programme didn’t stat until the 1940’s.

There was no frozen foods, so dried or tinned goods would have served; chickens which now are the cheapest meat available were more of a luxury, only less you reared your own; an ‘old boiling fowl’ would have been what was most cheap then and would have had to have been cooked for a long time, boiling, as described in one of February’s recipes.

I really feel as if this was Ambrose Heath describing the recipe for chicken – “a rather amusing way of presenting a boiled fowl!” :

Boiled Fowl with Spinach

  • boiling fowl – boiled and cut in pieces
  • butter
  • spinach
  • white sauce
  • egg – hard-boiled, kept hot, cut into rings
  1. fry the chicken in a little butter
  2. drain, arrange on a plate and pour over the white sauce, flavoured and coloured with the spinach (the spinach is boiled nad passed through a sieve)
  3. garnish with slices of egg

So how amusing, colouring white sauce green!! Hahahaha!

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