Samuel Muston: The Pauper's Cookbook - delicious revival of Jack Monroe of the 1970s

 

It was the gravy that did it. Dribbling lazily down the pot on the front cover, it looked so slovenly. So unlike the other cookbooks on my parents shelves. Elizabeth David and the other heavyweights of the kitchen bookcase wouldn't have stood for that gravy.

By the time I came across it in the 1990s, my parents' copy of Jocasta Innes's The Pauper's Cookbook was in the evening of its days – stained, torn and singed at the edges – but it drew me in like a bowl of cake mix. It was perfect for a child, assuming little prior knowledge and not aiming for an ethereal, Frenchified vision of perfection. It was a good friend to my family, that book.

I must admit, though, I had quite forgotten it: it had long ago slipped into that pit in my brain where my knowledge of GCSE chemistry and pure maths lives. This week, though, Frances Lincoln publishes an updated version of Innes's 1971 classic (below). The cover may have changed, though there is still a touch of the flaired trouser about it, but the contents are largely untouched. And that's a boon.

It was, in its day, quietly revolutionary. The book's conceit was both simple and attractive: it aimed to help indigent cooks produce "good home food at Joe's Café prices". The 150 recipes were spread across chapters with uncompromising titles, such as "Padding", "Fast Work", "Fancy Work", "Dieting on the Cheap" (this last one has been removed from the new version). It showed people how to take creative possession of modest circumstances.

The recipes themselves were diffuse. A "meal in a potato" – which requires a large spud, butter, cheese, nutmeg and egg – rubbed up against the rather grander "stuffed mussels". There were outliers like the "British Rail Salad", which takes in quail eggs, black pudding, garlic and leaves, and familiars like bread and butter pudding. What drew them together was the fact that you could knock up any of these dishes on a budget of two and sixpence per person per meal (about 60p today) which, incidentally, was what Innes was living off while writing it, having left her husband, the producer Richard Goodwin, for a life of bohemian penury in Swanage with the novelist Joe Potts. She was, in some senses, the Jack Monroe of her day.

While some of the recipes in the book seem a little dated today, others are as fresh as ever. But half the fun of the 280-page book is to luxuriate in Innes's style. Her style of writing is not unlike the previously mentioned Elizabeth David and, like her, she pulls no punches. But I always used to think of her as a counterweight to the blessed David, whose recipes can be so know-it-all and who certainly never lived impecuniously in Swanage.Writers like David are so skilled at evoking flavours and places, which are so far away – it makes their work timeless – whereas Innes and, indeed, Jack Monroe write practically for the here and now. David might be a culinary god but Innes has her place too.

Perhaps my parents thought as much, too, for I remember Elizabeth David's books lived on the top shelf in our kitchen – like some holy text. The Pauper's Cookbook, however, lived two storeys down. They are books of different status, certainly, but 43 years after it was first published, The Pauper's Cookbook should still have a place in every modern kitchen.

Sport
Australia vs New Zealand live
cricket Follow over-by-over coverage as rivals New Zealand and Australia face off
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
Life and Style
Researchers found that just 10 one-minute swill-and-spit sessions are enough to soften tooth enamel and make teeth vulnerable to erosion
health
News
i100
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
The Regent Street Cinema’s projection room in the 1920s
film
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing