Elizabeth Craig MBE FRSA (1883 – 1980) was a Scottish journalist and home economist. She was the daughter of a pastor in the Free Church of Scotland and married American war correspondent Arthur E Mann at St Martin’s-in-the-Field, after World War One.

Craig began learning to cook aged six and began to collect recipes at the age of twelve. She claimed that the only formal training she had, was a three month course in Dundee. Nevertheless, she wrote over 60 books on cookery and a dozen more on housekeeping and gardening.

Craig had trained in journalism and wrote her first cookery piece for the Daily Express in 1920. By the Thirties, she was churning out cook books, featuring simple, economical recipes.

Elizabeth Craig’s Economical Cookery was published in 1934. She entitles her introduction as ‘Just a Minute Please’ and says that there’s nothing to be proud of, if you don’t need to count the cost of ingredients and can have as many eggs and as much butter and cream as you want. She thinks ” the best cook is the one who can prepare and serve well-balanced meals out of inexpensive ingredients.” She exhorts housewives to prove that the British housewife ” can be as clever a manager, as her neighbour across the Channel “.

The book begins with a guide to planning meals. Elizabeth Craig sets out what she calls ‘rations’ (in 1934) which should be allowed daily: bread and a breakfast cerael or a mould or pudding made with a cereal eg barley, macaroni, rice, semolina or tapioca. Fruit, either raw or cooked. One pint of milk for adults. one or two for a child. Part of the milk allowance is for tea, coffee and cocoa and part is for puddings, soups and sauces.

Meat, such as beef, veal, mutton, lamb, pork plus poultry and game, all “with a little fat”. As far as vegetables go, Elizabeth allows 1 raw vegetable eg lettuce, radishes, spring onions or a green salad and one cooked vegetable.

Eggs came under miscellaneous, with one egg per person per day. Butter, other fats, sugar, honey, jam, jelly. marmalade, syrup and cakes were allowed.

Twice per week Craig would allow cheese ” unless overweight”, in which case you were restricted to sour milk cheese. Dried beans, lentils, green or split peas could be served as a vegetable or purée with cold meat, or made into a soup. Macaroni and spaghetti were used for thickening broths and as part of a supper dish.

Fish and offal could also be served twice a week, ” when in season”. Tomatoes could also be served twice a week, either raw or in salads.

Elizabeth Craig proceeds to give some tips on saving money when shopping eg make a meal plan but be flexible, go early to get everything or late to get reduced food. Stock up on offers which store well.

Elizabeth Craig gives the ideal portions per person, then slashes them on a budget which would be the equivalent of £72, to feed two adults and one small child. To feed two adults and four children, with chickens, meant buying 13 loaves of bread, 15lbs of potatoes, 14 quarts of half skim milk, 6lb of vegetables, up to 1 lb lard, 1 lb butter, 3.5 lbs flour (for cakes), 3 lbs sugar, 3 lbs fish, 1lb bacon, 4 lbs meat, and 2lbs oatmeal.

Elizabeth Craig has a ‘How To Keep Slim’ chapter in the book. Juice of a lemon in hot water first thing in the morning and last at night. No mustard. ketchup, chutney, horseradish. Very few sweets. A glass of water 1 hour before each meal. No thick soups, but bread is allowed. Eggs to be soft-boiled, poached or steamed only. Only clear soups. Meat had to be lean, grilled and eaten once a day. No tropical fruits unless oranges, lemons and peaches. No root veg. Only certain fish – salmon, bass, monkfish, sardines, mackerel, tuna, were all excluded.

The recipes rely on good produce, meat, poultry, game and fish. besides salt and pepper, seasonings and extra ingredients are sparse. Fresh herbs, oatmeal, vinegar, nutmeg, allspice, breadcrumbs, dripping, flour, bacon fat, catsup, Yorkshire relish.

The recipes do seem like the sort of food which should be served up in the kitchen of a farmhouse, on a wintry night.

If you like baking, live in the wilds somewhere, and like your carbs, this could be an interesting book to look out for. If you’re into food history. this is 1930s pre-war food, as eaten by ordinary people. If you’re keto or low carb or coeliac, there’s really very little here for you.

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