Rupert Croft-Cooke and Cookery

In addition to several appreciative books on wine—including the fortified trilogy of Sherry (London, 1955), Port (London, 1957) and Madeira (London, 1961)—Rupert Croft-Cooke wrote fondly, expertly and at times mordantly on food and cooking in various other works; he favoured simple cooking with fine (but not necessarily expensive) ingredients and opposed pretentious or unnecessarily fancy cooking with poor (but not necessarily inexpensive) materials.  He described the dismal deterioration of dining in post-war England with deserved scorn yet he also provided sound advice and useful recipes which may still be utilised and appreciated in modern times; for example, Nigella Lawson, in her How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food (London, 1999), describes Croft-Cooke’s English Cooking: A New Approach (London, 1960), as “a wonderful book” which is “charmingly authoritative”.  Not astonishingly, fine food is frequently described within Leo Bruce books, particularly the Carolus Deene books he wrote after he moved to Tangier and “learned [. . .] to cook”.*
To provide a flavour of those writings—within books on cooking and in autobiographical works—we provide some representative excerpts:
in the first, a wistfully comprehensive recollection of childhood meals from The Gardens of Camelot (London, 1958), the first volume in The Sensual World series ;
in the second, an account of his philosophy and practice—alas, this would prove to be all too short-lived!—in the kitchen from The Life for Me (London, 1953) ;
in the third, descriptions of steak-and-kidney pudding and of curry from Cooking for Pleasure (London and Glasgow, 1963) and The Life for Me;
in the fourth, his method for making omelettes from Cooking for Pleasure, with an apposite quotation from Death of Cold by Leo Bruce (London, 1956);
in the fifth, two passages on prison food from The Verdict of You All (London, 1955).
We also provide a few food-related excerpts from some Carolus Deene mysteries and, haply, shall add to these pages hereafter.  See also the six-course feast—which Lionel Townsend describes as an ‘interminable meal’ that returns to him in nightmares—provided by Merton Watlow, the profligate millionaire, in “Beef for Christmas” (1957):
There were six courses and for most dishes there was an alternative scarcely less satisfying.  We were handed cards on which the original menu was reproduced.  POTAGE, I read without apprehension at first, à la Tête de Veau Clair or à la Colbert.  Phew, I thought, and found as an ENTREE les Pain de Faisans à la Milanaise.  Then there was that course which has long vanished, the RELEVE.  It was in English, but none the less menacing for that—Roast Beef, Yorkshire Pudding.  The ROTI was Dinde à la Chipota or Chine of Pork.  ENTREMETS were four—Les Asperges à la Sauce, Mince Pies, Plum Pudding, La Gelée d’Oranges à l’Anglaise.
But Merton Watlow did not finish with his relatives there.  As though to give his gastronomic teasing of them an extra sting there was added the extraordinary heading SIDE TABLE.  Under it were offered Baron of Beef, Wild Boar’s Head, Game Pie, Brawn, Woodcock Pie and Terrine de Foie Gras.
Similarly, see this passage from the third chapter of Cooking for Pleasure:
I can read without regret those speciment menus which were given in the cookery books of half a century and more ago.  Charles Elmé Francatelli, for example, described by his editor as “an earnest and gifted worker in the cause of gastronomy,” wrote a book called The Modern Cook in which he devotes thirty-six pages to Specimen Menus of Dinners for Every Month Throughout the Year.  These, his editor says in 1911, represent a “simplification” of his original menus, which must have been something.  Here, for an Edwardian family, is his suggested bill of fare for a dinner in January.
Hors d’œuvre:  Small Foie-Gras Darioles.
Soup:  Lobster Bisque.
Fish:  Souchet of Flounders.
Entrée:  Fillets of Partridges à la Lucullus.
Remove:  Braised Ham with Spinach.
Roast:  Roast Teal.  Potato Chips and Salad.
Sweet:  Pine-Apple Soufflé.
Savoury:  Sardines à la Diable.
It is not even funny to us and I don’t think it can have been wildly funny at the time, especially for the cook or the guest who was expected to eat his way through it.  (pp. 19-20)
*  In The Long Way Home (London, 1974) Croft-Cooke writes:  “I had come to [Tangier] fresh—or not so fresh—from the loathsome events which had befallen me in 1953 and been healed and purified by the sunlight and love I had found there.  I had [. . .] learned to make a semi-tropical garden and to cook[.]” (p. 10)

UPDATE I (27 January):  Chapter Six of Die All, Die Merrily by Leo Bruce (London, 1961), which features an account of a dinner at the Escargot de Bourgogne, is provided in its entirety.

UPDATE II (28 January):  two passages on prison food were added from The Verdict of You All by Rupert Croft-Cooke, and the list of excerpts above was updated.

UPDATE III (15 February):  the Foreword and other excerpts from English Cooking: A New Approach, “On the Joint” and “On Inverted Snobbery and Fish-and-Chips”, were added.

UPDATE IV (23 February):  Chapter One, “A Backward Glance”, of English Cooking: A New Approach was added.

UPDATE V (26 February):  an excerpt (much of the first two pages) of Chapter Eighteen, “Garnishes”, of English Cooking: A New Approach, was added.

UPDATE V (11 April):  an excerpt (much of the last two pages) of Chapter Six, “Fish” (whence the short excerpt On Inverted Snobbery and Fish-and-Chips” was taken) from English Cooking: A New Approach, was added.