Review: Forgotten Skills of Cooking

Never before have I ever read an entire cookbook from beginning to end. Admittedly I skipped the ingredients/instructions of things that didn’t sound particularly tasty to me, but everything else I sopped up like a sponge! This book is full of wonderful tips, recipes, homesteading knowledge, and wonderful photographs. At 600 pages hardcover, this is a hefty tome and well worth the price even at $40. Quite a bargain, considering the course that the author teaches on this subject at the Ballymaloe cookery school runs a whopping $13K.

There is so much kitchen knowledge that has been lost in the past 100 years. Things my great grandmother would have known, my grandmother only new part of. Out of those things she passed on only some to my mother. And while my mother was no bad cook, she had little to pass on to me in comparison to what her great grandmother once knew. Every bit of knowledge lost had been replaced by fast easy “convenience” products with little flavor or nutritional value. In our haste to keep up with modern life, there is so much that 100 years ago was known, and now is not.

The book has sections on foraging, making cheeses and other milk products such as yogurt, gardening and preserving both meats and fruits/vegetables. It also covers brief sections on the raising of animals for food, slaughtering and harvesting. While the information here is definitely not enough to get you through owning a flock of animals, it does go over the basic needs of raising them, so you can decide if it’s something you want to pursue. The book stresses the usage of foods as would have been done 100 years ago when food was more scarce: to use the whole of the animal, not as we do today where most of it becomes by-product. There are wonderful tips for getting the most out of the “cheap cuts” and the nutritious organ meats, and using the remainders for sausages and stocks. The author recounts the time when she did these things as a child growing up in rural Ireland, which I found very interesting to read.

I learned so much, even from a simple read. Small things I just had no idea of, that were never mentioned in any cookbook. Like that I shouldn’t put the livers from the chicken giblets into the pot when I try to make stock from them to make gravy, as it makes the stock bitter. I never knew! Or that roux can be made up and refrigerated for later use! Or that shepherd’s pie was traditionally made with leftover meat from a lamb roast, ground up. Makes me want to make a lamb roast, just so I can try out the leftovers! The tips just kept coming, and every few minutes I’d exclaim “Huh!”

Will I use every recipe in this book? I doubt it, but I’ll certainly use many of them! I already made pan seared trout, and next grocery trip I’ll definitely add a couple of recipes into the mix. Some of the knowledge, while excellent trivia, doesn’t exactly apply to me here in the middle of a city. If I ever get my dream home in the country perhaps I’ll be able to use that knowledge to forage and raise chickens and ducks. Other information is more specific to Ireland such as gathering Irish moss (seaweed)

In all, a wonderful addition to my cookbook collection. I’ll refer to it again and again. It’s much more than a cookbook, it’s an entirely new way to look at food. Although technically, it’s an entirely OLD way to look at food.

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