Cook Book of the Week `FOOD IN ENGLAND' BY DOROTHY HARTLEY Little, Brown, pounds 14.99, 676pp

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The Independent Culture
WITH THE summer holidays fast approaching, I for one will be indulging it in a bookfest. Now a cookery book might not seem an obvious choice for holiday reading, but if you enjoy affectionate, idyllic accounts of rural England, have a look at Dorothy Hartley's Food in England. Little, Brown has just published a paperback facsimile of her 1954 classic.

Written when many were concerned about the disappearance of the "old ways", it is a warm, evocative description of English cooking through the ages. Every quote and recipe offers insight into a now vanished world. All her chapters are idiosyncratic and cover topics as varied as Trade, Magic and Religious Cooking, Coaching Days, Some English Kitchens, Fruits, Herbs, Seeds and Flowers, and Fish. Her chapter on Meat includes suitables of lamb - mountain, water meadow or salt marsh, as well as notes on cooking snails and snakes. Her vision of English food stretches from Victorian hot-house peaches, sliced into a bowl, rinsed with brandy and covered with champagne and sugar, to how best to feed a good mouser.

Hartley's drawings also lovingly litter its pages. There are diagrams of pickling barrels, women scalding pigs and freshwater fish, all accompanied by fascinating notes. The recipes rarely include measurements, relying on the common sense of the cook. Their lucid style makes them a pleasure to read, especially as you never know what strange nuggets of information she will reveal next. Take her Scotch Oatcakes: who would have thought that Scottish soldiers made them with the greasy water from their army cauldrons, as a small amount of fat is needed to make them bind? You can lose yourself in her pages for hours.

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