September 29, 2012

Reading Between the Lines

A few years back I bought this cookbook at an open-air antique show about 45 minutes west of Toronto. “A Years Dinners: 365 Seasonable Dinners with Instructions for Cooking", by May Little, was published by Harrods. There’s no publication date but I’m guessing this book might have been published around 1925-1930. It comes with the quaint sub-title. “With Instructions for Cooking. A Handy Guide-book for Worried Housekeepers.”

It’s a fabulous old book with planned menus for every day of the year and gives instructions on how to prepare meals for invalids, how to get the most from one’s trips to the market. It also has a digestion table, something I’ve never seen before, so you know that the boiled mutton suet you just ate will remain in your stomach for 4.5 hours. There is a lot of suet in this book, but that’s they way things were back then.

The first half of this book is comprised of daily menus, most of them consisting of 6 or 7 courses. I like to think of a below-stairs cook like Mrs. Bridges buying this book to help with the daily menu. The remainder of the book, besides the guides mentioned above, are the recipes. The most thumbed and splotched part of this book is the dessert chapter. Sweet Dishes contains 180 different desserts, the majority of them “puddings”.

But this book had another tale to tell me. A cook or a wife had used the corner of a Sainsbury’s bill for a bookmark. On it was a printed date: 1930-something. The bill was from Sainsbury’s 56-58 Kings Road, Chelsea, SW3, and written out to M. Cap Michell Innes, 5 Cad Street.

I’m very curious by nature so I had to look this up. First I found out in my London A-Z that there isn’t a Cad Street in London; it's Cadogan Street. And after some sleuthing with and the internet, I was able to find out who Cap. Michell Innes was.

Captain Cecil Mitchell-Innes was the Chief Constable of the Lincolnshire Constabulary. He retired in 1931 and somehow ended up with a fairly swanky address in London's Chelsea. He received the title Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1920. His name shows up in entry in a book called The Royal Blood of Britain. In fact the name Mitchell-Innes is quite a storied one. puts Cecil Mitchell-Innes at 5 Cadogan Street, beginning in 1933 and to his death in the 1940s. The Lincolnshire Police website rounded out the rest of the information for me.
“Cecil Mitchell-Innes was born Born on the 6th July, 1866, at Edinburgh, he was educated at Cheam School, Surrey, and Fettes College, Edinburgh. His military career began In 1885 when he was gazetted to the Leinster Regiment and sailed for India where he served for 11 years. He was appointed Captain in 1893,when he became adjutant of the Simla Volunteer Rifles. On leaving India he went to Bermuda, Canada and Jamaica, and was transferred to the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders in 1898. He left the Army in 1903, and early that year was selected to organise and superintend physical education in Scotland, and to inspect and report upon all the training colleges throughout Scotland. He studied police duties under the Chief Constables of the North Riding of Yorkshire and Hertfordshire. He commenced his duties as Chief Constable (of Lincolnshire) on the 29th October. 1903, at a time when conditions were beginning to change owing to the development of motor vehicles and telephone services. In 1904, the telephone was installed at Headquarters and in a number of divisional headquarters stations, and by 1924 there were telephones at 40 police stations in the County. In the first year of his appointment, Captain Mitchell-Innes introduced the first typewriter used in the Force, at Headquarters, but it was not until 1920 that they were provided at superintendents' stations, and a further five years before sub-divisional stations had them.”

I only wish all my books and antiques has such interesting tales to tell.


Anna said...

I enjoy reading books about domestic life from the 50's and earlier. Although sometimes archaic in gender roles, there is a lot to be said about the thoughtfulness that went into the household in bygone eras. I will take a closer look at the menus to see if I can make something out of them for me and the kiddos. Thanks for sharing these with us.

giulia said...

This is fascinating. And so obviously it would have to be going past 7pm before I even get to it. Shall check back her tomorrow to finish up. Interesting & clever as always. xo, S.

K. said...

Is there a more British name than Cecil Mitchell-Innes? You couldn't make it up!

Premium T. said...

Oh! I love this post! And what a great job of sleuthing you've done.
While cleaning out my basement, I was going through some things that belonged to my late husband, and came across a manila envelope of correspondence between an engaged couple dating back to the 1920's, from Hoquiam, Washington. I'm guessing he picked it up an estate sale at some time, but I'll never know, so the mystery is compounded.

Rinkly Rimes said...

What a fascinating story! I wonder if his grandchildren will read your blog and say 'Wow!'

Margaret Gosden said...

Fascinating story - I like where your curiosity takes you!

Polly said...

Great post. These kinds of findings really bring history to life, don't they.

I love the Matisse's pictures on the right hand side, I love Matisse... have you read his bio by H Spurling? I'm sure you have.



willow said...

You are so much like me! I adore finding little treasures in vintage books and then sleuthing about, finding answers. This post was right up my little alley!

artslice said...

Very interesting! I love old cookbooks... gives an idea of what it must have tasted like to live back then... but the suet - blah! I can't imagine!

sallymandy said...

Fascinating, Hazel. That's very cool and interesting. Food history itself tells so much about how people used to live; and to have this book with the detail of a name hidden inside...very fun; thanks for taking us on the journey to find the owner's family.

Poetikat said...

Wow! Sainsbury's is still going strong as far as I know.
(Unless Tesco's put them under.)

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

I've found so many treasures in old books which has caused me to take a look at my own. I've found photos I'd been searching for, favorite bookmarks, old receipts...someone will have fun with my books one day! Hazel, I've left something for you on my blog. Pop over for a look when you have a moment.
All the best,