From The Back of the Shelf

back shelf

We'd love you to send any suggestions from forgotten or undiscovered gems gathering dust on the back of your shelves to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to add to what we hope will become an entertaining collection.

Things occasionally get bought, put on a shelf and forgotten about. Pre-Christmas stressed shopping, I'd grabbed this elegant cone-shaped little bottle as something different for non-alcohol drinkers. Sounded deceptively traditional, "Cox's Apple and Plum Cordial"...

Here is a period piece from The Complete Book of Curries by Harvey Day, published by Nicholas Kaye Ltd, 1966. It may have originally appeared in The First Book of Curries published earlier in 1955. It is part of the introduction to a chapter called 'Rice Dishes' and argues that rice has played a part in forming the English character…

Lurking at the back of the shelf in its ragged and foxed dust jacket, Delightful Food by Marjorie Salter and Adrianne Allen Whitney, published by Sidgwick and Jackson in 1957 and costing 25s, is another period gem.  English titles stand out amongst the French;  Dry Curry Cavalry Club, Coldstream Eggs and Sauce Tintagel, for example, and some wonderfully evocative footnotes - more of those later.

To kick off, here is the foreword by Noël Coward in which he reveals that he took up cooking in 1956. And what fun he had with his new hobby - the evening the Oven Blew Up and more. Oliver Messel did some extraordinary illustrations in modern day Arcimboldo mode, one of which is posted under the Coward extract.

Stretching a point, whilst this isn't about food, it is an ode to wine and so falls into our wider sphere of interest…

For 50p I picked up this slim volume, The Taste of Kinloch, commemorating a century of trading in wines and spirits of Messrs Charles Kinloch (1861-1961). A little googling reveals that Charles Kinloch merged with Courage in 1957:

"One of the largest wines and spirits businesses in Britain, Charles Kinloch & Company Limited, joined the Courage Group in 1957 bringing with it a history of wine trading going back 100 years. This firm was stocking some 4,000 lines of wines and spirits, and, apart from its wholesale and retail trade, supplied outlets throughout Britain"

Now, here's the thing: nowhere have I found mention of the delightful rhyming Foreword by Sir Alan Herbert (aka A.P. Herbert, 1890-1971, humorist, author, MP and law reform activist). Here it is.

"We're all quite well, but getting thinner
Not much for tea, still less for dinner
Though not exactly on our uppers
We've said 'Adieu' to cold ham suppers"

The 75th anniversary of the end of World War 2 seems a fitting time for an extract from the booklet A Collection of Occupation Recipes by Lillie Aubin Morris published by Jersey Museums Service in 1994.

The recipes themselves are indicative of the hardship suffered during the German occupation of the Channel Islands: limpet stew, pastry without butter, salad dressing without oil, plain flour blancmange, potato jelly. But it is the Introduction by Beth Lloyd that sets out some stark facts.

Louis Diat is probably best known for inventing Vichyssoise (or more correctly Crème Vichyssoise Glacée) in 1917 when he was chef at the Ritz-Carlton in New York. This extract, however, concerns sauces rather than soups and is taken from Sauces, French and Famous, by Louis Diat, first published in Great Britain in 1955 by Hammond and Hammond.  M. Diat paints a vivid picture of a nervous young trainee in the kitchen of a great chef awaiting the verdict on his sauces.