Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Military Marmalade

Military Marmalade

On leaving for a week in Brittany last Friday, I grabbed a random selection of books from my shelf as I headed for the front door. Hopeless, of course; holiday reading needs careful consideration, and this last-minute grab was given anything but.

It turned out to be a rather earnest brace of paperbacks; a book of Chekhov's short stories (abandoned at our Wiltshire stopover after just a couple of paragraphs; the translation was a bit stiff); and Robert Graves's Goodbye to All That, a sparely written, cold-eyed and extremely absorbing account of the horrors of, first, life at an English public school and, second, of the author's time in the WWI trenches. And, as so often happens with the books I read (which do tend to be a bit British/historic/foodie in their theme), it wasn't long before marmalade made an appearance.

From Chapter 12 (from a lovely, worn, 1960 Penguin edition, priced at 3/6, rather than the edition shown here):

"Breakfast at company headquarters consisted of bacon, eggs, coffee, toast, and marmalade. There were three chairs and two ammunition boxes to sit on... [Dunn] had begun telling me just how much I could expect from the men at my platoon inspection of rifles and equipment, when a soldier came rushing in, his eyes blank with horror and excitement. 'Gas, sir, gas! They're using gas!'

'My God!' exclaimed Price. We all looked at Dunn, whose soldier-servant the man was.

Dunn said imperturbably: 'Very well, Kingdom, bring me my respirator from the other room, and another pot of marmalade.' "

Blackadder couldn't have put it better himself.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Victorian Marmalade

I have just spent three weeks obsessively reading Judith Flanders' wonderful book, The Victorian House, which is worth buying for the footnotes alone (particularly the one on page 1 about sex and U-bends). I knew there had to be a mention of marmalade somewhere, and sure enough...

In Chapter 7, the author reproduces a typical weekly menu for a middle-class household, which shows how thriftily they used up leftovers, recycling food throughout the week rather than thinking up something new every day.

For example, mutton for dinner on Sunday became cold mutton for breakfast on Monday and curried mutton for Monday's dinner. On Tuesday, what was left of the mutton was then given to the servants, who ate it hashed for supper, then ate it again cold on Wednesday.

I was also pleased to see that, in this particular menu, there was baked marmalade pudding for dinner on Monday; cold fowl and tongue followed by eggs and marmalade for breakfast on Wednesday; and buttered eggs, tongue (again), bloaters and marmalade for breakfast on Thursday.

They must have been very grateful for the marmalade; the rest of the menu sounds monotonously grim.