Recently on Twitter I asked if my readers would be interested in a series of vintage bakes. I came across my great, great aunt Nancy's hand written recipe book from the 1940s through to the 1960s and a little after. It was filled with recipes for things I'd never heard of, written on the back of articles, on the back of envelopes, on banking slips. I wanted to start a series on the blog where I tried out a lot of these recipes and brought them back to the kitchen again. Recipe books are such social history and this one is no exception. Throughout the book recipes are credited to Nancy's friends that they came from and their address, there is a section where she had attended the cooking class in 1948 of a famous French chef and her notes from the lessons are fascinating.
|The book. The H.J.W stands for the files previous owner, the young H Jeremy Wintersteen, one of the children she was a nanny to in Philadelphia.|
Nancy or Annie as was her formal name (we all called her Nancy) was born in 1909 in Garvagh County Antrim and she took a ship to America when she was only 14. She worked for some of the most illustrious families and at this point when the book begins she's working for the McIlhenny Wintersteen's, a wealthy family residing at 8440 St Martin's Lane Chestnut Hill .
|The St Martin's Lane home of the Wintersteens where Nancy worked.|
Nancy was an unbelievable cook and and tremendously forthright woman, she tended to say exactly what was on her mind and stuck to it. I only knew her in her later years, in her 80s and 90s. We have the wooden steamer trunk at the bottom of our bed that she traveled around the world with when she looked after the Wintersteen children. My mum has loads of terrific stories about her, like the first time she saw her husband Bill, who was the Wintersteen's chauffer and also from Garvagh he was in the kitchen with the other staff. It was the 1930s and Bill used to wear his black hair slicked back, with his black and white spats shoes. From then on she used to call him 'That damn gangster' and still did long into their marriage.
|Nancy when she returned to Northern Ireland. My mum maintains they saw her picture as the inspiration for Mrs Doubtfire.|
When I started looking through the recipe book I thought it would be nice to have a weekly post where I would try some of the recipes from the book. They're such an interesting way of trying bakes that were popular at the time and I love the heritage of having a name and a person behind them.
There's a little bit of everything in the book and I'm looking froward to sharing it with you all. I'd love you to try the recipes with me, perhaps look for your own family bakes.