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Pot Luck
The British Home Cookery Book with over a 1,000 recipes from old family MS books by May Byron


This is not the ordinary conventional cookery book, affording instructions how to dress, cook, and serve every variety of joint, fish, vegetable, etc., etc., etc. I take for granted that the reader is already acquainted with ordinary means and methods, and is versed in the preparation of simple food. To be a "good plain " cook always appears to me a contradiction in terms: because, if a person's treatment of plain dishes is good, she should be equally good at more elaborate ones. The same amount of application will serve for both. To make "plain" dishes palatable is, indeed, the highest test to which a woman can be put. The culinary skill demanded in these pages is of an everyday, common-sense character, such as any housewife, old or young, may exercise with pleasure. For these are chiefly specimens of the "good plain cooking" which was done by our mothers, and grandmothers, and great-grandmothers—^the old home cookery before tinned things and preservatives were invented. This book is, in its way, unique.

In almost every family, at one time (before the present multiplication of printed cookery books) there existed a manuscript recipe book, or collection of old recipes tied together: passed on from one neighbour to another, or handed down from one generation to another as something really worth knowing. Some of these books and papers have been so frequently made use of, that they are almost worn out. The neat Italian handwriting is nearly obliterated, the yellow edges of the paper are stained and discoloured with wear: it is difficult to decipher the often shaky spelling and quaint phraseology of the MSS. To collect and select such recipes, therefore, is no easy task, and one very seldom attempted. They are often so jealously guarded and treasured by their owners, that the mere permission to copy them has to be besought as a special favour. I have, however, attempted to bring together a fairly representative collection, and I am sure that among the nearly eleven hundred formulas here set forth, many a reader will recognise with delight some little bit of cookery characteristic of her own old home, or will welcome with much satisfaction some long-lost method after whose ingredients she has frequently made search in vain. It will be seen that these are chiefly country dishes, dating back to the good old days when cities had not claimed the multitudes of the shires. Some, indeed, go back to the seventeenth century, when the disparity between town and country was not so great—when hardly a Londoner but had his garden, and cornfields separated the City from the present West End. Where possible, I have indicated the origin of the recipe, or at least the county from which its possessor came. Should any reader care to perpetuate some cherished recipe not included here, I shall be most happy, if it be forwarded, to insert it in a future edition.

The country meals are not as those of the town.A good hearty breakfast, about eight: a good hearty dinner about one: and that never-sufficiently-to-be-praised evening meal entitled "high tea," about six : this is the usual farmhouse routine. Sometimes, indeed,—as on Sunday, for instance,— a light supper about eight-thirty is substituted for high tea : but for the most part, people who go to rest early need no more than a cup of cocoa or some other hot beverage at bedtime. There is little doubt that "high tea" is a much more wholesome affair than late dinner. But, beyond this, it affords the opportunity for a vast variety of dishes, both salted and sweet, which do not easily come into the scope of any other meal: and, for this reason if no other, it is devoutly to be encouraged.

A Guildhall banquet can hardly vary the accepted and monotonous sequence of its courses: but "high tea" provides you with continual surprises, unexpected tit-bits, appetising old-fashioned affairs. It obviates the use of alcoholic liquors : and is of aU meals the most sociable, friendly, and satisfactory. I wish some able author would arise and devote his talents to the offering of A Plea for High Tea. A large number of these recipes would conduce to aid his eloquence. If only out of the hundred and fifty cakes here presented, he might vary the bill of fare perpetually: out of all the various cheese, egg, fish, and savoury made dishes, it would be an interesting trial of skill to select the evening's bill of fare. But the latter are equally useful to the town-dweller, inasmuch that they are of large avail for luncheon or for Sunday supper. A glance at the list of contents win acquaint the reader with the very wide range here proffered for choice: and "right so," as the old authors would have expressed themselves, I commend this little book to all and sundry.

M. B.

You can download this book in pdf format here!


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