Wednesday, November 13, 2013

From the Austerity Table to Plenty.

I have a final wartime story for you for this week which is short, but ends with a sweet recipe.

Clement Atlee was the Prime Minister of Britain from 1945-1951. In in early 1945, several months after the end of World War II, he visited the United States, and during his stay he was entertained in the usual diplomatic style. As background to the story which appears below, it is important to remember that rationing in Britain did not finally end until midnight on July 4, 1954 – nine years after the end of the war. At many times in the post-war period the ration restrictions were more severe than they were during the war itself – a source of much resentment and frustration on the part of the British populace.

On November 10, there a state dinner was held at the White House in Mr. Atlee’s honour. The following widely syndicated newspaper article described the meal:

After England's austerity tables, Mr. Attlee was calculated to appreciate the menu at the White House State dinner tonight. Associated Press of America says that the menu ranged from soups to nuts, as follows: Cream soup, with Royal custard garnish; celery hearts; assorted olives; toast fingers; roast stuffed turkey and cranberry jelly; asparagus; creamed celery; casserole of sweet potatoes with pineapple; green salad; cheese straws; ice cream; cake; coffee: candy and nuts.
The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA) 12 November 1945

Overall, it has to be said that this was pretty standard, pretty unimaginative fare. The only dish which Mr Atlee may have found intriguing might have been the particularly American concept of sweet potatoes with pineapple.
Sweet Potatoes with Pineapple.
3 medium sweet potatoes
1 small can crushed pineapple
¼ tsp. salt
4 tbsp. butter.
Select dry, mealy potatoes. Cook in skins until tender. Peel, cut in slices of uniform thickness and place in shallow, greased baking dish. Pour pineapple over, sprinkle with salt and add melted butter. Bake in 350 degree oven 30 minutes or until light brown. Serve from baking dish.
Hutchinson News Herald [Hutchinson, Kansas] October 25, 1956

The ‘Royal custard garnish’ would certainly have been familiar to the Prime Minister. It is a classical garnish for soups – although more usually to a consommé rather than a cream soup, I think.

Julienne with Consommé Custard A La Royale
Put in a basin:
½ pint of strong consommé, a very small pinch of salt, 8 yolks of egg, a little grated nutmeg;
Beat well with a spoon, and strain through a tammy cloth.
Butter a plain pudding mould; pour the custard in it, and set it in a stewpan, with boiling water to half the height of the mould; close the stewpan; and put some live coals on the cover; avoid boiling, and keep the custard on the fire till set very firm; let it cool in the mould; when cold, turn the custard out, and cut it in |-inch dice; put them in a soup tureen, and pour over 3 quarts of Julienne Soup.

The Royal Cookery Book (1869) by Jules Gouffé,

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