Correction (29/12/2012): I got the end date of Previously….Scotland’s History Festival wrong. It was actually still ongoing when I wrote this post.
This weekend is the West Port Book Festival in Edinburgh, so an update on two books I bought in the West Port is appropriate. The area has some excellent book and vintage shops but also, at one end, three strip clubs within about ten metres of one another. As these clubs are where the road forks into two, it’s known locally as ‘the pubic triangle’. I lived for five years behind the biggest club, the Burke & Hare – there aren’t many people who can say they’ve lived on a pubic mound – and can readily recall the mixed odour of disinfectant and hairspray you’d smell the morning after the night before. The seediness of the strip clubs is jarring but it does, for me, act as a bridge to imagining the even darker parts of the area’s history.
Anyway, to the books. I saw this cookery book in the window of Cabaret Antiques when waiting for my dad to try, and fail, to find a pill box to buy:
To be honest, I prefer old cookery books which have more information about general housekeeping (cleaning, child-rearing). We had, though, put the shopkeeper to so much trouble that I had to buy something.
This is a copy of the 26th edition of the Tried Favourites Cookery Book; this edition was published in 1963, the first in 1900. As the title suggests, it’s written as a quick reference book – no food photography or page-long instructions. In it, I’ve found a scone recipe that actually works for me: 1 lb flour, 2 oz butter, 2 oz sugar, 1/2 oz cream of tartar, 1/4 oz bicarbonate of soda, 1/2 pint milk or buttermilk.* I omitted the cream of tartar, switched bicarb for baking powder and added raisins and still produced something that looked more like scones and less like rock cakes. I think the modern recipes I’ve used have too much sugar.
From my perspective, the book’s recipes are secondary to the appeal of its adverts. One of the book’s publishers was in Edinburgh, so most of the ads are for local businesses.
Creamola Foam is a source of nostalgia in Scotland; this is the first time I’ve heard of the company making a custard.
I have Marshall’s Macaroni in my cupboard right now!
My second book purchase in the last few weeks was from Edinburgh Books, formerly West Port Books. The shop looks a bit dilapidated – something I was concerned they’d lose when it changed hands – and the range both of what they sell and the prices they sell it at is hard to beat. When it was West Port Books, it also acted as a publisher of some fascinating facsimile editions, including West Port Murders: Or, An Authentic Account of the Atrocious Murders Committed by Burke and His Associates and historic statistical accounts and maps of Edinburgh. Edinburgh Books still sells some copies of these.
The book I bought on this occasion was the Edinburgh and Leith Post-Office Directory 1963-1964. Not one to read cover-to-cover, but very interesting to flip through if you get excited by knowing who used to live at addresses you’re familiar with – I do. If you do too, there are a couple of online resources that I’d strongly encourage you to visit:
A few other finds I’ve taken an interest in recently are:
- The BBC Radio Scotland series Women with a Past: Juicy-sounding stories about women in Scottish history. (Declaration of conflict of interest: I came across it because I met the presenter, Susan Morrison, through my work.) I’m looking forward to giving it a go once I can find a computer that BBC Listen Again doesn’t think is in the USA. The presenter is also a driving force behind Scotland’s History Festival which has recently finished and which, somehow, I managed not to make it to any of. Next year…
- The Sunshine on Leith Facebook group: This is often entertaining for all the wrong reasons (read some of the comments to see what I mean). If you can look beyond that, there’re excellent pictures and local knowledge.
- The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: I’m trying to decide whether I want this for Christmas. The title makes it sound like a disposable half-hour flip-through, but some of the reviews indicate there is more to get stuck into.
- University of Edinburgh Natural History Collections: This is open by appointment to the public and looks to have an extensive collection of parasites, among other things.
Also, it’s not new, but if you clicked on the link through to the West Port’s gruesome history and you now fancy seeing William Burke’s skeleton, pay a trip to the once-monthly opening of the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum.
* Apologies for the mixing of metric and imperial systems in this post! It’s what you get for going to a British school in the 1980s.