Concerning Nell: hacking it

‘When chopping walnuts put them in a sponge tin and chop with a mustard tin. Four edges to chop with, & the tin to keep the walnuts from spilling.’ Genius.

In an earlier blog I showcased the little green notebook with the meticulously copied handy hints. I found, on exploring the cardboard box entitled ‘Old Recipes’, that there is also a red notebook, a teal one, two blues and three black notebooks — enough for each grandadult to have one — full of tip after tip, in no particular order and with no way to access, say, Picnics: ‘When carrying a bottle of milk in a basket, to keep it upright use a bicycle clip fastened through the wicker.’ ‘To keep a pile of sandwiches fresh for some time, put slices of plain bread on top and bottom.’

Mice dislike the smell of mint…

Or kitchen hacks: ‘Jam substitute. Grate the rind of one lemon & one orange into half a cup of honey. Very nice.’ ‘To give an almond flavour to milk puddings, boil a peach leaf in the milk.’ Who knew!

Raising Kids: ‘When a child is left-handed, to teach her to knit, etc, sit her down opposite you and she will be able to follow your movements.’ (Which doesn’t answer the question of how to teach a right-handed kid or a boy. Nell had a child who needed to learn left-handedness because of malformation in the right. I’m pretty sure the hints came before the child.) ‘When giving a drink to sick children, make a small hole in the top of a screwtop jar & insert a drinking straw. This avoids spills on the bedclothes.’

Pure labour: you’re only going to do this when lovesick or desperate to impress. You’ll need to plan ahead: ‘Rose petal sandwiches. Gather petals as soon as dew is off them – before the heat of the day. Place some in an earthenware dish. Cover with wax paper, then a layer of fresh butter’, (chopped? melted? sliced or smeared?) ‘& another layer of rose petals. Weigh down’ (with a book? a rock? a pound or two of butter?) & leave in a cool place for 24 hours. The butter is now perfumed. Put this on brown bread & butter’ (more butter?) with a few fresh rose petals & press another slice of brown bread on top.’

This recipe is patently not one for hungry farm workers or the kids just home after walking/riding five miles from school. This is food for the subtly attuned or the lovelorn.

Hang onto those petals!