Vintage Recipes – The Good, the Bad and the Calf’s Head, 1910

This is the almost unfortunately-named Mrs Dora Rea’s Cookery Book, from 1910.

This is a lovely cookbook, very sensible and everyday, and largely lacking in Victorian and Edwardian aspic-y froufrou. Full of recipes that are easily followed today.

A few cookery quirks of the time were the emphasis on “nitrogenous” foods (what we’d call protein now) and “invalid cookery”, sickroom cooking being taken very seriously before the advent of Heinz Tomato Soup.

It also turns out that there was good reason that British cooking was derided for its treatment of vegetables. Here’s a recipe instructing how to cook carrots:

Yes, that’s boil between one and two-and-a-half hours, then chop into mush. I wouldn’t boil carrots to make baby purée that long.

At this time they were also keen on cooking heads to make brawn. Otherwise known as “head cheese”, a name that gives me terrors.

Although it’s at least a step above the gothic-sounding “blood tongue” –

It seems like a lot of effort to go to, when the end result is still a head. All that removing of snout bone, tongue and brains. Shudder.

But there are loads of great things in here. I’m as mad about cooking as I am about history and I love testing out old recipes. This is “Potato Surprise”, a 100% delicious concoction that I make with the leftovers from yesterday’s sausage and mash (I have to make extra especially so there’s enough for leftovers, of course).

Mrs Rea’s Potato Surprises
1/2 pound of cooked sausages
1 1/2 pounds mashed potato
Salt and pepper
1/2 ounce butter
(Unmentioned – an egg, breadcrumbs and oil)

Melt the butter and mix with the potatoes, also seasoning.
Divide sausages into small pieces.
Cover each with potato, make into a ball, brush with egg, cover with breadcrumbs.
Fry in hot fat.

Nb. Love the old spelling d’oyley. Makes it infinitely posher-sounding.

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8 Responses

  1. Karen says:

    I assume from your reference “almost unfortunately-named Mrs Dora Rea” that you are pronouncing her surname as ‘rear’ when it is in fact pronounced ‘Ray’. How do I know? She is an ancestor of mine

    • Estelle says:

      Ah, you’re right I was. Thanks for the pronunciation information! No offence intended, I love her cookery book and have made quite a few things from it. I think she was a brilliant cook, wonderfully down to earth. How fantastic that she’s your ancestor. I couldn’t find any information about her, do you know much of her life?

  2. Karen says:

    No offence taken Estelle. I grew up with the surname and am used to the variations of the pronunciation! I’m pleased to hear that you have tried her recipes. I’ve got 3 copies of her book but have never tried anything from it! She was born Dora Moss in 1865 in Warrington (which was then in the county of Lancashire) and moved to Birmingham some time between 1881 & 1891. On the 1891 census she is shown as a ‘teacher of cookery’, I don’t know where she taught though. She married Arthur Thompson Rea in 1899 and lived in Birmingham and also Staffordshire for a short while. She is not listed anywhere after that date as a teacher so I guess she gave up to be a housewife and look after their 2 sons, as they did in those days, but she obviously kept her interest going by writing her book. I do know that she owned Berkswell Poultry Farm, near Coventry for a few years and sold it in 1918. She was known nationally for breeding white Wyandotte chickens, I have found adverts in newspapers of her selling her ‘”well known” stock in many areas of the country. She died in 1949 in Warwickshire.

  3. Estelle says:

    That’s fascinating, thanks so much, Karen!

  4. Ria Lyne says:

    Hello, Karen. Another Rea here, sister of Peter Rea. Looking through genealogy information today, we came across Mrs Rea’s cookbook and it is certainly fascinating.

  1. October 9, 2014

    […] Previous post here on Mrs Rea’s Cookery Book from 1910 – […]

  2. November 18, 2014

    […] Incidentally, a descendant of Mrs Rea’s has been in touch to correct my joke about Dora Rea being almost unfortunately named. Because “Rea” is pronounced “Ray”, not “Rear”. I am chastened and also honoured, thank you, Karen! Karen has kindly provided more information about Mrs Rea’s life in the comments here – […]

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