Posts tagged ‘Banff and Buchan’

December 16, 2019

Abigail's Party: Food Politics 1930s and 1970s Tory Favourites

Clearing out my large collection of old cookery books I came two curiosities –Tory Treats, Banffshire Conservative and Unionist Association recipes and The Cook o’ the North. Let’s explore some of the delicacies offered up in the first of these and what, if anything, they reveal about the Tory within.

Tory Treats is contemporaneous with Mike Leigh’s 1970s play Abigail’s Party, a satire on the aspirational middle classes with undercurrents of prejudice, pretentiousness, ignorance, and mediocrity. The question is does a cookery book reflect anything of those times in all their gory glory? I’ll rummage through the pages for you but you can make up your own minds.

You’re probably condemning me for affecting a snooty attitude to what is only a cookery book but you’re not the one faced with what journalist Anna Raeburn might describe as ‘ghastly’ concoctions that sum up some of the frankly, well, ghastly, food dished up in the ‘70s. In some cases I’ll include the recipe. Believe me they aren’t complicated. Here’s a flavour so grab a sick bucket. We start with my favourite for quickness and it is so Abigail.

Rich Tomato Soup: – open a can of tomato soup, heat. Add a glass of sherry.

Told you it wasn’t a chore. Cheers m’dears.

Salmon Surprise: – The surprise for me was that the salmon comes from a tin. Open the said tin, remove any calcium in the form of bones, and mix the salmon with heated bread and milk. The salmon goes into an oven dish with sliced egg and, surprise! – a layer of cornflakes and grated cheese. Add white sauce and more cornflakes and cheese and bake. Think we’ll call that brunch.

I imagine the French Onion Soup, Belgian Loaf and Pork Roman would be hard to swallow nowadays given the current xenophobic state of the party, specially in millionaire fishing circles in Banff and Buchan but they might just go for an exotic little number such as Herrings in Orange Juice? Mind you the orange juice might prove a problem. On reflection I’d shelve it. Herrings in Orange Juice sounds – what’s the word? Ghastly. Suspect it won’t compete in popularity with the local delicacy of an Inverurie Speshul. Basically find any meat and bung it all in together – recommended is steak, liver, beef sausages. A scurvy speshul.

So Abigail is the Brazilian Peach: – open a tin of peaches. Place in a dish. Drop in almond essence and cherries and spoon on beaten egg white then grill. That’ll be warmed up tinned peaches. Nice. Pass the Blue Nun.

Being from Banff and Buchan there’s an oddly odd religious element to their grub. How about this one called For a Sudden Visitation. I think the idea is if God calls in unexpectedly you have to grab another tin of peaches (hope the Coopy hasn’t run out) sprinkle on some sugar and cinnamon then – hope you’re still with me – what d’you think? Yes! You heat them up. What is it with Banff and Buchan Tories and hot peaches? Beginning to think hot peaches is code for something else.

Any cornflakes left over from your Salmon Surprise can be used in making Caramel Cornflake Crunch. Take a ¼ lb caramels out of the bag and melt them. At this point you might want to add a few chopped nuts before mixing in those oh-so-handy cornflakes. Spread out and leave to set.

I’m fairly certain this is the sort of cooking once taught in our schools – processed foods, sugar, more sugar, fat and more sugar, and fat. Chocolate Pops have an unfortunate association for me since I first read them as Chocolate Plops. Anyhow, here goes. Melt a bar of chocolate – easy, huh? Add rice crispies or you could add cornflakes but I’m fairly sure the Coopy is now oot o’ cornflakes or as they say roon here, conflakes.

If you are now regretting having embarked on a dander down Conservative cookery retro road with the Hyena can I offer you a slug or five of Tory Potato Wine. It’s made from some old tatties and there are plenty of them available in the Tory Party.

Overdone the Potato Wine? You might reach for a restorative Advocaat. Mmm, this tasty brandy and egg drink was popular in Scotland for just such emergencies but making it with a tin of Carnation milk? Seriously. Seriously just wrang.

You’d have to be blootered to dish up Tripe Scampi. First catch yer tripe (kidding – tripe is in rich supply among Banffshire Tories), chop it up with flour and milk and fry. Yu……………..k.

Clean your palette with a couple of Cheese Meringues or a forkful of Frosted Meat Loaf served with mayonnaise made from condensed milk and mustard.

My other Tory cook book was published in 1936 when people really did cook, if the Tories left them with any money to afford food that is. Which wasn’t often. But Tories will be Tories so let’s dip into their own lifestyle.

The Cook o’ the North is a play on the Cock o’ the North which is – if you don’t know already check out my other blogs. This cookery book contains recipes from Kincardine and West Aberdeenshire Unionist Association which inexplicably has changed its name to West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine Totheids or similar.

Mrs Spence’s Frigidity isn’t what it appears but mince. Liver Pie won’t be to everyone’s taste nor will Stewed Tripe which was as prolific among 1930s Tories as it is among today’s. And something else time and Tories hasn’t changed is their appetite for Stuffed skirt. Or does Stewed Capercailzie take the bird? First hunt down the rare bird then kill it and compliment yourself on being an animal lover, on your plate at least. Killed out all the Capercailzies? Worry not here comes a wee Grey Squirrel for the casserole pot. The recipe is from one of those protectors of the countryside, Major Hugh Pollard and The Sportsman’s Cookery Book. Sports it seems is a moveable feast. Well, not so very moveable once they’re shot.

Every kind of animal found its way into Tory bellies. Even Cats Tongues. Fit! Calm down, they were a kind of biscuit. I think, but you can’t be sure with Tories.

Half-pay Pudding wasn’t something that was needed by many Unionists, I’m sure. In the 1930s there were many folk on half or no pay. So what was it? Flour, grated bread, suet, raisins, powdered ginger, syrup and sugar – essentially a sponge pudding. Raspberry Pudding is probably more to the liking of old flush face himself, Jackson Carlaw. Made from raspberry jelly it surely doesn’t turn out as ruby as beamer Carlaw. But maybe Strawberry Fool better represents him. Take one bumbling fool, embarrass him – joking!  Before I leave the subject of poverty included in the book is a recipe for Poor-House Perkins which is pretty damn offensive. The biscuits sound tasty – oatmeal, flour, treacle and sugar but it’s the 1930s equivalent of Tories grinning at cameras and explaining how proud they are to be opening another foodbank.

There are some fine sounding recipes in both volumes; Black Piece being one of them. This recipe is at least 200 years old and is a ginger cake made with treacle. Gingerbreads have always been very popular in Scotland and often sold in markets. Descriptions vary but if you were middle class or a toff you’d talk about a moist gingerbread while common-as-muck folk described one that wasn’t dry as damp. At least we got through this section without straying into offensive racist language for describing certain confections, unlike a certain Tory cookery book.

The British Empire has a lot to answer for not least when it comes to Iced Vegetable Curry and continuing the international culinary trail Dresden Patties were a favourite in these parts: chop flesh up into tiny pieces, cook in a hot sauce and fry which was pretty much the fate of women and children in Dresden when Britain and the US bombed it and created a firestorm in 1945.  

Towards the end of the book there’s a list of Five Auld-Farrant Cures From Grannie Mutch of the Scottish Children’s Hour. Grannie provides such sterling advice: make cough mixture with vinegar, sugar candy, eggs (shells included) mixed with 4d of paregoric and shake. ‘The bairns like it fine’ probably because of the paregoric – camphorated tincture of opium. Cheers m’dears.

Finally back to Abigail’s Party and a suggested lunch menu – not a dinner party but hey ho. Mandarin & grapefruit cocktail; salmon scallops; creamed potatoes; garden peas; strawberry whip.

It’s not so complicated. For the cocktail, open a tin of mandarins and a tin of grapefruit segments and mix. For the salmon, open a tin of salmon and mix with cheese, white sauce and grill. And the scallops? Another salmon surprise. There are no scallops. You serve the salmon in scallop shells. Typical Tory promise – ends in let down. To accompany this disappointment open a tin of peas. At least there’s proper mash to go with it. Eh, not quite. This is the 1970s so it’s a case of open a packet of dried potato – instant potato. My farmer uncle told me he was approached by a guy representing a dried tattie company who pointed to a pile of discarded rotting tatties and asked to buy them. Perplexed my uncle told him they were discards not for eating. “Oh,” replied the tattie agent, “we’ll process and bleach them. No-one will ever know they’re eating crap” or words to that effect.

And if dishing up this instant garbage was too much an ordeal for the average Tory then the Links Hotel in Banff was ready to step up –

If your own efforts (sic) are none too successful, book in at The Links for a True Blue Meal!

Nah, you’re alright.

Who’ll join me in a nutritional glass of sherry? Open a bottle and pour into a tumbler. Add a can of tomato soup. Cheers!