A picnic with the National Mark

I was writing somewhere else about picnics, and I suppose I had picnics in my min when I was looking at my little National Mark Calendar of Cooking book from 1936. Maybe I wouldn’t pack a picnic for us with dishes from the little recipe book, but supposing I was writing about a family in the 1930’s who were going on a picnic, what might they take with them?

Mother no doubt would prepare it all, and I can imagine it in a traditional whisker basket or hamper, lined with a blue and white checked cloth. Father would find the right spot to lay out the rugs and cloth, and he would light the Primus stove to make tea.

Mother might have made sandwiches with the National Mark recipe for brown bread (wholemeal flour, yeast, butter, sugar, salt and tepid water) and maybe they would have beef in them. Collared beef (‘very delicious served cold‘) is beef simmered for a long time with onions, herbs (parsley, thyme, sage, marjoram)and spices (mace, cloves, bayleaf, allspice, pepper, celery seeds) – that would be delicious indeed in sandwiches! There were no plastic pots and tubs then, so I guess the salad was either brought as separate ingredients and prepared  sitting on the picnic rug, or maybe prepared and put into a bowl and wrapped in grease-proof paper. There is a lovely selection of salads in the June chapter:

  • celery leaf
  • lettuce and green peas
  • tomato and celery
  • cheese
  • rice, ham and tomato
  • cauliflower

Beef mayonnaise is another option instead of one of the salads above; cubes of beef, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, hard-boiled eggs and home-made mayonnaise (made with olive oil – it’s not just a recent fashion, pre-war cooks used it too!) There are lots of lovely desserts in this little book, desserts which would be practical to bring on a picnic. A sort of clafoutis made with plums, blackcurrant and almond paste tart, strawberry flan, gooseberry tart – and to go with the cup of tea father has made, fruit and nut cake or raisin brown bread. Father himself might prefer the cider cup!

My featured image, by the way is of my own  family on a picnic – a long time after the war I have to say!

Beef mayonnaise

I’m not sure that beef mayonnaise sounds very enticing for today’s foodies, but maybe it sounded exotic and delicious to cooks in 1935 when the National Mark Calendar of Cooking was written by Ambrose Heath and Dorothy Cottington Taylor. If it was described as beef salad, or beef with mayonnaise it might sound a little more appetising.

The little cookery book was divided up into months with seasonal recipes for each; I  like the sound of a lot of them but August’s don’t appeal quite as much… tomato ice, tomato jelly salad, stuffed cucumber (cooked) and beef mayonnaise… hmmm. The other recipes are more interesting, marrow soup (creamy and herby) fricassée of chicken in a lemon, parsley, butter and nutmeg sauce, plum batter (a little like a clafoutis) raisin brown bread and cider cup… I reserve judgement on stuffed cauliflower.

Beef mayonnaise

  • ½ lb cooked beef (presumably roast)
  • 2 lettuces
  • 1 cucumber sliced
  •  lb tomatoes, chopped, reserving a few slices for decoration
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, sliced
  • mayonnaise made from 2 egg yolks, ½ tsp each of salt and pepper, ½ pint olive oil, juice of ½ a lemon or 2 tsp vinegar
  1. arrange a few large lettuce leaves at the bottom and around the sides of a salad bowl,
  2. break up the rest of the lettuce, (reserving the two hearts) and tear into small pieces
  3. put the shredded lettuce, tomato cucumber, beef in a bowl with the mayonnaise and blend
  4. arrange the beef mayonnaise in the bowl with the lettuce leaves
  5. garnish with tomato slices, egg and lettuce hearts