I can resist big glossy cookery books, the ones with a picture for every recipe; but I'm a sucker for little pamphlets produced as fundraisers, or to promote local produce, or to preserve traditional recipes. So much the better if they're old. So, I have a copy of Cornish Recipes - Ancient and Modern
, originally issued by the Cornwall Federation of Women's Institutes in 1929, though this twenty-first edition was published in 1962. I don't know where I got it from - possibly from durham_rambler
's mother, and she seems (from the crumbly white blob encrusted on the back cover) to have baked from it at least once. The fifth - 1930 - edition was revised and enlarged, gaining a foreword by Arthur Quiller-Couch, who also contributes his recipes for pickled damson and claret (or cider) cup, which he suggests you serve alongside the ham for which a recipe is given elsewhere in the book.
In addition to the curing of ham and bacon, there are chapters on the baking of bread, cakes, pasties and pies, a chapter on cream (admittedly, a single page chapter; it includes a recipe for fried eggs with clotted cream: fry eggs until quite brown, and serve with a lump of clotted cream on each), chapters on soup, fish, remedies ("medical and otherwise") and a description of a traditional Cornish oven, supplied by a member of St Kea W.I. in response to an appeal for a descripton of the old ways of baking.
This is the essence of the book, I think: it is an attempt to record the old ways of cooking and baking, the traditional dishes of Cornwall. Many of the recipes come with a footnote: "This is an old recipe dated 1805" (one of the ten recipes given for saffron cake), "Dated 1698" (one of four for metheglin, or mead). A gingerbread recipe "was given to a Falmouth member by a woman who made and sold them at a stall in the streets of Redruth." Even without these notes, the quantities involved are characteristic of old recipes (the gingerbreads require three pounds of flour and two of dark treacle).
I wonder if some of the omissions from the book reflect this emphasis on the old-fashioned: did the contributors and editors simply not bother to record things that were still current at the time? There is no chapter dedicated to vegetables, and very few vegetables appear - and when they do, it is mainly in pies. There are herbs, plenty of potatoes, parsnips, leeks and an unexpected broccoli pasty ("Boil broccoli until nearly cooked, but still quite firm, strain it and fill pasty in usual way, adding salt.") Perhaps vegetable recipes were felt not to be interesting, because unchanged, or perhaps cleaning and boiling vegetables wasn't felt to require a recipe.
Almost anything, on the other hand, could be made into a pie or a pasty: the chapter on pasties lists, alphabetically, apple, broccoli, chicken, date, eggy pasty, herby pasty, jam, mackerel, meat and potato, parsley (actually lamb or mutton with parsley), pork, rabbit, rice, sour sauce (sorrel), star-gazing pasty (with herring), turnip and windy pasty (the last piece of pastry left over from making pasties, baked empty and served spread with jam).
There are three recipes for star-gazy pie, seven for squab pie, not all of which contain squabs (young pigeons). The version "as taught by the Phoenicians when they mined tin in Cornwall" uses mutton chops). Another recipe for squab pie, contributed by Penzance W.I., involves layers of veal, ham, mutton, beef, a cormorant and as much clotted cream as it will take. This is such a massive and baroque undertaking that I don't suppose it was cooked very often, but a recipe for rook pie has a more believale air. There's also a recipe for curlew pie, but I really don't want to think about that...