Dripping in case you don’t know is what is left in the pan when you have roast meat – usually beef, but I guess it can be anything else. On top is the fat – the dripping, but underneath is a delicious meaty jelly. The delicious meaty jelly could be made into soups and stock and also eaten on its own with bread… and so could the dripping… except I never ever liked it!

At home growing up, nothing was wasted and the dripping from the Sunday roast would be decanted into a bowl and used to fry things… people didn’t know about cholesterol but even if they had, they worked hard, walked or biked everywhere, had no central heating, didn’t spend long sedentary hours at home – or at work. We saved the dripping a I mentioned, but neither my parents liked to eat it either on toast or on bread as many people did… so we would give it to friends, neighbours and relatives who did like it. They thought there was nothing nicer than hot toast, dripping and a sprinkle of salt!

One day my aunty dropped in to see us; she was a wonderful, lovely person, and a great enthusiast for everything. Whenever she took her children out she would gather up any of their friends and take them to – out fora walk, on a drive, on a picnic… On this day when she visited, as usual she had a car full of children; they all piled out and we played in the garden while my mum and her sister chatted… maybe they had a cup of tea… I don’t remember!

As she was leaving, mum gave my aunty a big pudding basin full of dripping – she was delighted! she and her family loved it, it was a real treat for them. She put it in the boot of the car,all the children piled back in and off they went for a nice jolly trip somewhere, maybe for a picnic, or maybe to find a wood to walk through, or a river to swim in!

After a lovely day they returned home, the children’s friends all went home, and the family piled into the house for cups of tea and dinner. Maybe it was later that same evening, maybe thinking of supper, that aunty went to collect the big pudding basin of dripping from the car. She opened the boot… the basin was on its side where it had tumbled as she swung round corners. The dripping had melted in the sun and impregnated every inch of carpet in the boot…

That is what i think of when someone mentions dripping!


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!

Plumping for unsquelchy things

Summer is nearly over, but September weather is often absolutely lovely! As children we used to go on holiday the first week in September; it was cheaper and we nearly always got nice weather! A couple of years ago there was even a heat wave in October, which topped up my tan nicely, and gave me some extra vitamin D to see me through the winter!

One of my favourite food writers, who died sadly when she was only fifty-two, was a great enthusiast for everything, especially eating out of doors; camping, caravanning, picnicking, Ruth was up for it! As well as giving ideas for picnic food, and for ways of transporting it – plastic or polythene bags, jars and flasks, and extras such as ‘mustard in a tube, if you’re taking a batch of brown little chipolata sausages, and maybe things we wouldn’t now want such as cold scrambled egg, liver sausage or cold bacon, although she dos make the latter sound tempting – ‘that takes a lot of beating, don’t you think – bacon – especially if there’s a crunchy cos lettuce to chump up with it.’ Do you think that’s a typo? Should it have been ‘chum up’, rather than ‘chump’?

She has advice on drinks too –

  • a vacuum flask of hot soup
  • a mug full of steaming broth
  • the ever faithful flask of tea or coffee
  • ice-cold China tea with a sprig of mint and a squeeze of lemon
  • a can or flask of pure orange or grapefruit juice
  • bottled squash has its merits, especially for the younger generation

As for sweet things, ‘you will be wise to plump for unsquelchy things’, she advises. I agree totally with her good wishes for our picnic:

‘Let’s hope that when you have your picnic the birds will sing and the sun will shine for you – and that you don’t sit down on a broken bottle or find your view spoiled by ice cream cartons all over the grass.’

Lovely cool slippery gooseberry fool

A couple of days ago I wrote about picnics; I love picnics but my family aren’t so keen so maybe i should just pack one up and set off on my own and go off and solo-picnic! that sounds a great idea! no-one would moan about the damp grass, the nettles and brambles, the squashed and soggy food, the forgotten milk for the tea, or misplaced cutlery…

Ruth Drew who was a well-known writer and broadcaster in the 1940’s and 50’s, was a great one for the outdoor life and loved camping, picnicking, getting out and about and enjoying it whatever the weather or conditions! She would have made a great companion for me!

here are her thoughts on eating outdoors:

As for what to pack into a jar of out-of-doors food… well, the range is as wide as your imagination. A picnic favourite is well-seasoned scrambled egg – made rather creamy – and well forked around while its cooling, with some chopped chives thrown in. (This is excellent mixed with sweetcorn out of a can, by the way. Or chopped stuffed olives, if you’re catering for sophisticated palates.)
Then sometimes you could cook some rice – and stir it up (when it’s cold) with a mayonnaise dressing – and bung in  all sorts of savoury oddments… sliced hard-boiled eggs… tomatoes… spring onions… some diced ham or bacon… or sausage… or shrimps… you’ll think of a dozen possible ingredients. And a very good meal  this kind of food makes, backed up with salad and buttered rolls. It means giving everyone a spoon and a plate, of course. But that’s no great hardship. And you can carry a second course in the same way – a help when there are children to be fed. Fruit purees are splendid on picnics – apple puree, for example – or a lovely cool slippery gooseberry fool, with a few sponge fingers to eat with it. When soft fruit comes along in earnest it’s fine carried in a jar – raspberries – perhaps – sugared when they’re put in.

I’m not sure people would be that keen on scrambled egg, to be honest, but rice salad would be a great favourite. As for dessert, I’m sure these days yoghurt rather than fruit fools would feature!

Here is the simplest recipe for gooseberry fool, should you want to take some in a jar on a picnic:

  • 1½ lbs gooseberries, ahsed, topped and tailed
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 4 oz sugar
  • ½ pint double cream, lightly whipped
  1. simmer gooseberries and water until they are soft, stirring to stop sticking
  2. reserve a few for decoration, seive, stir in sugar, allow to cool
  3. fold in the cream and chill
  4. serve decorated with remaining gooseberries

We always called them goosegogs… are they common enough these days for children to still call them that? The featured image, by the way is of our gooseberry bush… can you see any gooseberries? No we couldn’t either!


I love picnics

I think I’m the only one in my family who likes picnics, so although we often take food with us when we’re travelling, it’s hardly ever what I call a real picnic with a rug and plates of nice things slightly the worse for travelling in a warm car, balanced on tufty grass beneath the blanket. Picnics are tepid tea, compressed sandwiches, squidged cakes, annoying insects, occasional cows… Picnics are family things, fun, and exciting!

My dad, having been in so many out door eating situations while he was in the army during the war, pouring liquid corned beef from tins, drinking stewed tea from the Salvation Army officers (for whom he was always grateful) plagued by really horrible insects, not just English ants, midges and wasps, and shite-hawks as he called them swooping down to snatch food from their plates… So I can understand he was not keen, and being on the beach was not a great joy, reminiscent as it was for his time in the desert… He didn’t complain or moan about it, in fact he rarely mentioned it… but picnics were not really for him.

Ruth Drew, the journalist and broadcaster whose words were published  posthumously in ‘The Happy Housewife’ was a great one for all sorts of eating out of doors, and has a whole chapter on packed meals and picnic food.

There are lots of people who take a superior line on picnics – you know – how dreadful the flies are – and the hard ground and tea tasting of old cans. However, agreeable characters are not at all superior. They are delighted to eat all their meals out of doors in summer weather. The only thing they find dreadful about picnics is seeing the mess some people make with old sandwich papers and bottles and orange peel and goodness knows what.

This must have been written in the 1940’s or 50’s… plus ça change!

Ruth continues:

Sandwiches have their uses. But sandwiches take quite a time to make, if you make them properly, and on the whole if you’ve once done it you will find you would rather take food in plastic bags or screw-top jars or flasks. salad comes along in a plastic bag – a transparent polythene one, it washes and lasts for ages, and its wonderful for keeping green salad fresh.

…and here, times do change – these days, people would be advised to wrap sandwiches in recyclable paper, and not plastic bags which can’t be recycled!

img079My mum and dad, her two sisters and brother, her brother-in-law and our two cousins… picnic!

Family picnic

img079I wonder where we were when this was taken? My mum and her two sisters and brother. There are only four of us children, me and my sister, and my two cousins; they would have a brother and sister within a few years. Later my aunty sitting on the far right would marry, and my uncle at the back would marry, and he would have two daughters. All three men, dad and two uncles had served in the war; my dad was a paratrooper, one uncle was on the Arctic patrols, the other an airman.

We are still very close as a family, but we are now the older generation. We all have children, sixteen between us, and some of them have families too. if there was a photo for a family picnic now, and we were all present, there would be eight grandchildren! Times change, but family is family!

Fleam Dyke

family at fleam dyke 1956 2 001Fleam Dyke was a favourite place to go for picnics when I was a child, and here is a photo of us, when I was about six or seven,leaning against my aunty on the right, and my sister sitting by my mum just left of centre would have been four or five. My dad is on the left of the picture, and to complete the family outing are my dad’s close friends and brothers in law, and my other aunty, and my two cousins;  one would have been five or six, and her little brother sitting on his mum’s knee would have been two or three.

I don’t know what picnic food we would have had, sandwiches certainly, cake most definitely, and maybe buns or biscuits. We would have had a flask of tea for the adults, and squash for us children. We are sitting on rugs, and there are bags and tin boxes, and we would have had proper plates and cups. I guess we would have brought balls and maybe a cricket set to play with, and we would have come in cars. At the time of the photo, it shows my mum and her two sisters and brother and the four children. later my uncle married and had two more children, my cousins had another brother and sister… I wonder if we went on any more picnics with the whole lot of us?

I never knew until today what Fleam Dyke was; it’s just a name and a place from my childhood, and I guess i thought the Dyke must be a canal… but no. Fleam Dyke is an ancient earthwork… it looks a fascinating place, and I have come across an amazing WordPress  blog which can tell you much more about it than I can.

Please do follow this link, it’s fascinating: