I came across a lovely little find at a car boot sale at the weekend. Someone was selling a vintage cookbook for £1, dated 1947, and me being me, I pounced on it straight away. It wasn't until I got it home that realised I had found something a bit special.
The cookbook was American.
I realised this as I flipped through and came face-to-face with recipes for frogs legs...
..along with Russian, Persian, Japanese, Jewish and Icelandic recipes.
There is a whole chapter on rice, noodles and pasta.
I had forgotten what a cultural melting pot America was, even back then. Japanese and Chinese had started moving to America in numbers during the mid-1860s, and then there are the French and Spanish populations down in Louisiana, who arrived in the 16th and 17th century. The Italian began moving to America in earnest in the early to mid-1800s, and the Jewish populations began arriving from the mid-1800s onwards.
Compared to British cookbooks of that time the difference is startling, and it is not just down to rationing. I'm sitting here looking at an British cookbook from that era and I see hardly any Polish or Italian recipes, despite both populations starting to arrive on our shores in the late 1800s. My own family came from the Amalfi coast in the 1920s and set up a delicatessen in the South of London, but you won't find anything of nay note in the recipe books reflecting the contribution of Italians to British gastronomy in the 1930s and 40s apart from a few poor 'baked' spaghetti recipe. If you are lucky you may find a few Jewish recipes, and occasionally recipes with foreign influences, such as the use of curry powder (e.g. kedgeree).
I've just been through a cookbook I have dated from 1937, and found the following recipes with 'foreign' influences (this book is aimed squarely at modern housewives who entertain).
- Curried Eggs
- Spaghetti Italienne (baked spaghetti with plum tomatoes)
- Indian mutton 'cutlets'
- Liver curry
- Chicken curry
- Spaghetti and tomatoes (baked again!)
- Canape a l'espagnole (anchovy and cream cheese on toast)
- Croutes a la Campagne (tongue paste on toast)
- Italian cauliflower soup (apparently Parmesan cheese makes it Italian!)
- Italian sauce (essentially white mushroom sauce with Chablis (which is French wine!)
- Kromskies (part French and Polish bacon wrapped meat or fish parcels)
- German cutlets (no idea why these are German?)
- Italian Jelly (based on the use of crystallised fruits it would seem)
- Neapolitan Ices
- Creole Rice
- Spaghetti Veronese
- Southern Corn bread
There is a small section on Jewish cooking.
Now, this is 1937 so before the war and rationing. Unfortunately, the only post-war British 1940s cookbooks I have are ones by Marguerite Pattern, and rationing was in effect so it is difficult to make the comparison between the type of recipes in the American cookbooks vs the British cookbooks. However rationing ceased in 1954, so my aim is now to find a 1950s cookbook and see how multicultural the recipe are.