A Taste of NHS History – Archive Cookery Book Brought Back to Life

Almost 100 years after it was first published to raise money for the Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary Appeal Fund, there will be the chance to sample some of the delicious cakes featured in the Grangemouth Cookery Book, now in the NHS archives at the University of Stirling. Thirteen people have volunteered to bake 15 recipes for a special coffee and cake event on Thursday 21st November 2019 with the proceeds going to help mental health patients in NHS Forth Valley.

The event, from 10am to 12noon in the Archive Reading Room near the University Library, is part of Explore Your Archive, an annual launch week which showcases the best of archives and archive services in the UK and Ireland. The campaign aims to help professionals, volunteers, and students celebrate the unique potential of archives to excite people, bring communities together and tell amazing stories.
The idea for the coffee and cake morning on the University campus was cooked up by University of Stirling, Archivist and Research Support Assistant, Rosie Al-Mulla. She explained: “The Grangemouth Cookery book, published in 1925, was a wonderful invite into fundraising, a really brilliant idea. Recipes were sent in from all over the world, Norway, Canada, the UK – people obviously spread the word through friends and relatives.

“My favourite is Scripture Cake as you have to work out the ingredients using Bible references, such as 2 cupfuls of Jeremiah vi 20 and once you have sussed the ingredients the recipe instructs you to follow Solomon’s advice for making a good day (Proverbs xxiii 14) and you will have an excellent cake!”

With several recipes featured for sponge cakes and gingerbread Rosie has also decided to have a bake-off to find the tastiest. Recipes have already been issued to 13 colleagues and sampling has begun. In addition, for people who prefer savouries, there’s the chance to discover how to make tapioca cream soup, stewed kidneys, mince custard and red monkey – the latter a tomato soup with grated cheese to spread on toast. The book also contains plenty of advertisements which are interesting in terms of social history. They include where to buy Twilfit Corsets for Figure Freedom, Chilprufe garments for children and how to ‘Drop the Drudgery’ with a Smoothtop gas range.

Rosie is insistent that cakes available at the coffee and cake event will be made by purely original methods. There will be no cheating by adding icing if the original recipe does not have a topping and an instruction to use a ‘sharp oven’ could be trial and error until the baker gets it right. The only concession to the 21st century will be to provide a couple of gluten free cakes – by using one of the few recipes which don’t feature flour.