Going into service was for millions of girls, until just within living memory, their first taste of life outside home and school. In service they learnt the sophisticated ways of their social superiors, and the practical skills of running and feeding a household. For many it was a rite of passage, a learning curve designed to come to fruition when they married and began a family of their own.
Mary Jane Stratton, a Wiltshire country girl, was one such. Between 1901 and 1913 she served in at least six households, as kitchen-maid and then as cook. During this time she collected and wrote into her ‘receipt-book’ hundreds of recipes – from her employers, her fellow servants, friends and family. Sumptuous puddings, magnificent cakes, jams, savouries, preserves and drinks – redolent of the Edwardian dinner parties for which they were prepared.
Mary Jane’s handwritten book, a family heirloom, has passed to her grand-daughter, Katy Jordan. With the help of a band of ‘testers’ she has experimented with the recipes, and adapted the best of them for the modern kitchen. The result is an ingenious but practical collection of mouth-watering cuisine from a bygone era of banquets and house parties.
Katy’s concoctions includes the original recipes and their modern reworkings. It is laced too with social and family history, and peppered with sound advice, advertisements and illustrations from that doyenne of cookery writers, Mrs Beeton, whose book Mary Jane and every self-respecting Edwardian cook kept at their elbow.
Grandmother’s Recipes is a cookery book like no other. It will transport you to the country house world of servants and aristocrats, extravagance and frugality – but you can take with you all the modern conveniences of the supermarket, freezer and electrical gadgetry!