Featuring The Vintage Cookbook Trials

Well you asked for it and here it is, more wit from the delightful Vintage Cookbook Trials. I featured this duo on the podcast and couldn't resist asking them back to delight us on the blog in more detail. 

You can find them on twitter as @TheVCBT and don't forget next month is 'Pie Month'!

Tag you're it. Take centre stage and tell us who you are!
E: Hullo, we’re Elly and Alix. We’ve been friends for a long time.

A: The blog started in the pub, when we both realised we were amassing
loads of old cookbooks and doing nothing with them apart from looking
at the pictures, it struck us both that it might be interesting to see
whether recipes stand the test of time. For me, as I've cooked more
and acquired more books than I'll ever be able to do justice to, I've
developed an interest in a few tangents from the recipes themselves,
like the intrinsic role food and cooking has played in the history of
humans and also the evolution of cookery book design. Sadly, being
fairly lazy, little of this comes across on the blog, which, on my
part mostly consists of seeing just how awful a dinner I can knock up.

E: We blog about the process of cooking, as much as eating. We make
whatever we feel like, we're completely honest about what we do and
how it turns out. I love browsing Tastespotting for inspiration, but
our blog is the polar opposite of that. We both work full-time, so
most savoury dishes are mid-week evening meals, photographed quickly
in the kitchen. A friend called us 'enthusiasts, but not experts',
which is completely true - the only thing we take seriously is
deliciousness.

What counts as 'vintage'?
When we started it meant older than us (pre-1980), but then we
realised we were depriving our readers of the opportunity to laugh at
a lot of 1980s cookbooks, so now we define it as first published more
than 25 years ago. Our oldest cookbook is an abbreviated reprint of
Gervase Markham's The English Huswife (1615). It begins with an intro
saying (I paraphrase) 'You know how people used to shop, cook and eat
well and economically, but now those skills are being lost? This book
will show you how to do all that and be happier and more successful
because of it'. Sound familiar? It has also some good pie recipes.
 
Isn't vintage super trendy right now?
It is, but we've buying second-hand books and making a mess in the
kitchen and then eating it, all our lives.

What are your favourite dishes to cook?
E: My favourite things to eat - stews and puddings

A: Usually the ones that I enjoy cooking are the least edible! I like
taking a punt on an unpromising, maverick-sounding recipe, then being
disappointed by the resultant disaster. Even after three years I don't
seem to have caught on to the obvious flaw in this technique. The ones
I enjoy eating are the no-nonsense standards, for instance Maria Luisa
Taglienti's Italian Cookbook has yielded many a delicious pasta dish.

Do you still have a technique or dish that you're too nervous to cook?
E: I'm going to attempt puff pastry this year. I've never done it -
I'm determined to have a go. I should be too nervous to cook
meringues, instead I keep trying to make them and mucking them up.

A: I'll try anyway, but I am limited by equipment, money and time, and
I refuse to have anything to do with beating egg whites as I only have
a handwhisk, plus I cannot grill anything without setting the oven on
fire. Actually, my many failures in the yeast realm have put me off
baking. I just can't get it right.
 
Describe the perfect dinner party (imaginary characters may attend).
Guests:
Nancy Blackett (from Swallows and Amazons)
Elizabeth I
Marcus Gavius Apicius (author of the first cookbook)
Violet Jessop (ship-wreck survivor)
Jeeves (would be good to see what he's like off-duty)
That woman from Come Dine With Me who made a strawberry 'coulis' using
jam and water
Food:  
Fishfinger Pyramid for starters, Croustade of Larks for main,
followed by one of Alison Burt's remarkably bad cakes.

Is it tricky blogging as a duo?

E: I sometimes finish a post, get over-excited and hit 'publish'
immediately so it goes out on the same day as one of Alix's. This
makes her very angry.

A: Yes, stop doing this!

If you could cook for anyone in the world or history, who would it be?
E: My grandmothers, both great cooks, who I never had the opportunity
to cook for. Or possibly Eliza Acton, but only if she promised to lean
against the kitchen doorframe with a glass of wine, criticising my
technique.

A: I think I'd just like to have a massive dinner party for everyone
who's ever made me dinner before.

What recipe would you make for the zombie vintage cook book trials?
Braaaaaaaaaains, of course! We’d brown them gently in sage butter and
because we like a varied diet, graaaaaaaaaains as well.

Any parting thoughts or comments?
If you enjoy cooking, we would encourage you to have a look at the old
cookbooks in your family and have a go at some of the recipes – we're
sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And if you enjoy laughing at
pictures of bafflingly horrible food, we encourage you to do the same.