The Friday Five – Cookbooks for the New Age of Austerity


Time to tighten our belts! The new age of austerity beckons


So, George Osborne is with us, and we have to remember he promised us an age of austerity as he starts with the cuts. Given that everyone has been talking about whether or not that might include putting VAT on food and books, I’m in for a double whammy. So before that happens, here’s 5 books that could help herald the way I’ll be needing to cook within the near future! And in true austerity measures style, I’ll be ordering them secondhand!

1. Good Eating: Suggestions for Wartime Dishes – a great reprint of a book from when austerity was your life, not a lifestyle choice. Whilst these might be old recipes, they seem perfect for the times we’re living in. I bought a copy of this at a National Trust shop, and I would say it was a bit of a national treasure. It’ll cost you a little more than the original 2’/, but you can get a used copy from£1.45.

2. Feeding the Nation by Marguerite Patten – talking about national treasures, if anyone knows how to cook well in times of austerity then it has to be Marguerite Patten. Fabulous for producing comforting, nostalgic food that will take you back in time, and not break the bank. And the recipes produce surprisingly tasty results. Except Stuffed Marrow. I don’t care how austere it gets, I am not eating stuffed marrow!

3. Ministry of Food: Thrifty Wartime Ways to Feed Your Family Today by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall – I’ve written about this book before, and think it’s great that the Imperial War Museum has really caught the food mood of the nation. I guess this is the modern day version of Marguerite’s book, and the illustrations are lovely in this, so it’s a beautiful looking book as well as interesting with good recipes. Whether George would approve of pretty things in austere time, but what the heck! If you look at the posters of the time they have a beauty of their own, so go for it!

4. Frugal Food by Delia Smith – oh yes, another national treasure to help us through austere times. Now, this classic has been updated recently, but the original version is available from only 1p, so it would feel much more appropriate to buy that version! You know what you’re getting with a Delia recipe, so I would think they would all turn out tasty recipes that are not overly complicated, and hopefully not too expensive!

5. The Workhouse Cookbook by Peter Higginbotham – well, I don’t think George has suggested bringing back the workhouse, but who knows? If you want to get a view on what might be in store from a food perspective, then this is the book for you. Plenty of photos to show you it was no holiday camp, but apparently the food was more varied than you might think. If you want a slightly depressing, but interesting, day out, then I can recommend a day at The Workhouse at Southwell. It’ll make you want to boost your savings!

I don’t think we need our ration books yet, but a bit of belt tightening may be in order. Which probably means more people will discover the benefits of local and seasonal cooking! Ration book photo by WolfieWolf over on Flickr.


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Helen Tarver

Collector of great gifts and fabulous food, mum, cake baker & eater, wine opener. I write about food and the gift of it in its many forms.

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