Gert was delighted to read in the cooking hints in her local paper the advice of Mrs Dorothy Floate on adding melted butter to a sponge cake. Mrs Floate, ‘the doyen of the baking-as-moral-salvation movement in postwar rural Australia’, said that adding hot melted butter to your sponge mix was akin to a married woman spending a night out with French sailors. We have some difficulty following the logic of this. Hot butter, apparently, bursts the air bubbles trapped in the beaten eggs: so does the company of French sailors flatten the high spirits of the married woman? That certainly hasn’t been Gert’s experience with French sailors.
Whatever it is, it can’t be good. Dorothy is stern. Here she is on the Australian housewife’s way with jam. “Frankly speaking,” she wrote in Mrs Dorothy Floate’s Secret of Success Cookery Book ( a collector’s item these days), “one seldom finds a well made strawberry jam”.
If there are any cooking afficionados out there with access to Mrs Floate’s books, we’d love to hear more of her words of wisdom.
A very different character is the insouciant Ethelind Fearon, author of The Reluctant Hostess and a number of other books on subjects ranging from pigkeeping to how to keep up with your daughters, as well as children’s books. Here’s a taste of Fearon’s free spirit:
Salad like soup can be anything. If you choose to serve cold rice pudding and stewed prunes, with a garnish of lettuce leaves and dressing of lemon juice and oil, as a salad, no one could contradict you. I know because I’ve done it, but you need courage, a knowledge of the inadequacies of your opponent (which is more potent armor than any courage)…
The books are hard to get, but The Reluctant Hostess, first published in 1954, has recently been reissued. Sadie Stein’s piece in The Paris Review on Ethelind Fearon is a great read (as Sadie Stein’s articles always are).