The best book that my mum picked up in her bumper haul of goodies at the weekend is a fantastic recipe book from 1963 called: ‘The Nancy Spain Colour Cookery Book’.
Apparently Nancy Spain was a cookery superstar alongside the likes of Fanny Craddock et al. Nancy, who hails from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and is the great niece of Mrs. Beeton is fully aware of her celebrity status and milks it to the full in this marvellous book.
Not only is it bursting with the most bizarre recipes and mind blowing photographs, it is larded with Nancy’s bon mots and memoirs, and acres of celebrity name dropping, and it is clear throughout that Nancy is having an absolutely marvellous time, and simply cannot imagine anything finer than being Nancy Spain in full colour.
She also has a wonderful turn of phrase.
I love this book so much I feel multiple posts coming on so that I can share this joy in all its technicolour Sixties wizardry.
First, let us get to grips with Nancy herself.
Here is a fine picture of her modelling a leek:
Here she is in her introduction:
‘There are no over-elaborate and time-wasting dishes in my book (says the woman who gives you the recipe for pineapple chocolate ring), as I have made it essentially a book of meals – lunches, suppers and dinners: in fact a practical guide for people like myself who enjoy cooking and enjoy eating.’
This picture alone surely gives the lie to that statement.
Nancy is very keen on presentation:
‘Even sliced, pink, raw luncheon sausage meat can be made attractive if someone has taken the trouble to lay it out elegantly on a dish with adequate and contrasting salad vegetables around it.’
Hmmm. I am not convinced Nancy.
‘The Duchess of Windsor once told me that colour was all-important in presenting food. She was dead right: ‘Watch out,’ she said. ‘If you don’t take care you may serve an entire meal pinkish mauve.’
To combat this, Nancy suggests serving piping hot peas in orange skins where you have removed the fruit and serrated the top with a very sharp pointed knife to make peaks.
Nobody is going to accuse that of being pinkish mauve. Not even the Duchess of Windsor.
Under Kitchen Chat we find out more about Nancy’s illustrious forebears:
‘Since the age of five, when a dish cloth (honestly) used to be attached to my skirt, it has been almost impossible to keep me out of the kitchen. This was the age at which I discovered I had Mrs. Beeton dangling in my family tree, hanging over my head like a small (she died when she was 28, was very pretty and an expert pianist 5 foot 2 inches in height) crinoline shaped cloud.’
I am in love with that paragraph. I am sure it should win an award for something. What I am not sure, but I have been so thrilled with it, I have read it six times since I got the book home with me.
So that’s Nancy. Isn’t she awesome?