Famous Five Foods

June 25, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Posted in Eating and Drinking, Learning Stuff | 1 Comment
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Apparently there are quite a few people out there who are interested in what the Kirrins eat. Food writer Josh Sutton has done an actual statistical analysis on the foods consumed in the Famous Five books which a) is very interesting b) makes me feel a lot less geeky for keeping a spreadsheet with a record of what gets eaten when and where. Sutton’s data is available in spreadsheet form but also in this fabulous visualisation (click on the picture to be take to an interactive version which you can explore in more detail).

Sutton has grouped the Five’s meals and snacks into food groups and has concluded that actually they eat rather healthily – there are plenty of radishes, crisp lettuces and plums in amongst the ginger beer, ices and buns.

As well as validating my decision to regularly eat like the Five, it’s also intriguing to see what foods crop up repeatedly and which only make a one-off appearance e.g. the chocolate mould which will be a one-off on my dining table too. Unbelievably, ginger biscuits only crop up once, as do egg sandwiches, but regular favourites include bread, ham, biscuits and tomatoes (lashings of).

Read Josh Sutton’s article on ‘Why the Famous Five had the Perfect Austerity Diet’ here

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High Tea and Chocolate Mould

April 15, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Posted in Anne, Eating and Drinking | Leave a comment
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Menu: Stuffed tomatoes, salad and new bread and butter, followed by chocolate mould with jam tarts, washed down with tea and homemade orangeade (courtesy of Agnes Jekyll).

I’ve been desperate to make a chocolate mould for some time, since reading about the ‘smasher of a supper’ served up in Five Fall Into Adventure. After George gets kidnapped – yes, this does happen more than once – the rest of the Kirrins and Joan the Cook receive a ransom note (Uncle Q and Aunt F are gallivanting around in Spain somewhere). They are told to leave one of Uncle Quentin’s notebooks (he’s a top notch scientist) under the crazy paving the garden; once this happens George will be returned to the bosom of the family. The Kirrins are a daring lot though and decide to spy on the kidnappers when they come for the book. But how? They know Kirrin Cottage is being watched so they snatch Sid the paperboy when he comes to deliver the evening news, and Dick makes off wearing Sid’s cap and bag. He then sneaks back after dark to see what happens…

To keep their unwitting kidnap victim entertained for the evening the others play snap and Joan serves up a meal of ‘ham and eggs and chip potatoes followed by jam tarts and a big chocolate mould, of which Sid ate about three-quarters’.

I couldn’t quite bring myself to re-create this rib sticker of a repast hence the slightly lighter stuffed tomatoes (from Five on a Secret Trail), but we did have the combo of jam tarts (strawberry and raspberry) with the chocolate mould for afters. I used a 1920s recipe from a brilliant publication called The Woman’s Book. It tells you all sorts of things, from how to cook and be a hostess, to how to lay linoleum, to how to open a bank account. Here is its recipe for chocolate mould.

Chocolate Mould

(Fr. Moule au Chocolate)

2oz Chocolate

3 gills of Milk [1 gill = 1/4 pint]

2 yolks of Eggs

1/2 oz Gelatine

1 or 2 oz sugar

A few drops of Vanilla

Method. – Break the chocolate in small pieces and put it into a lined saucepan with one gill of milk. Dissolve slowly over the fire and cook until smooth. Then remove the saucepan from the fire and add the remainder of the milk, the gelatine, sugar , and yolks of eggs. Stir again over the fire until almost boiling and until the gelatine is dissolved. Strain into a basin, add a few drops of vanilla and cool slightly. The  pour into a wetted mould and set aside until firm. Turn out when wanted, and serve plain or with custard sauce.

This pudding may be made less rich by omitting the yolks of eggs.

And here is my chocolate mould. It doesn’t look too appetising, does it?! I faithfully followed the instructions and added 1/2 oz of gelatine but I think I needed half of that (I can only conclude modern gelatine is stronger). It was hypnotically shiny but a little too solid. Anne served it up for us and was able to cut it with a knife. We had to jiggle the plate hard to get even a hint of wobble. It was quite interesting but not my best pudding ever. I hate to waste things but had to throw the remains away – I really needed a young Sid to consume the remaining three-quarters.

‘Famous Five to Get 21st Century Makeover’

July 24, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Posted in Learning Stuff | 1 Comment
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reports Alison Flood in the Guardian. Readers of this blog will surely understand the shudder of horror that went through me as I read these words. References to galoshes, jolly japes and mysterious food stuffs (a ‘chocolate mould’, anyone?) are, for me, a large part of the appeal of Enid’s books.

On the one hand I can see Hodder & Stoughton’s point. It is true that the originals will continue to be available (for the time being, at least), but this whole malarky does seem a little insulting to children’s intelligence. Examples of changes cited in the Guardian article include ‘fellow’ being replaced with ‘old man’ and the phrase ‘it’s all very peculiar’ being substituted with ‘it’s all very strange’. I can’t help but think that this narrowing of vocabulary is a bit newspeak-like.

Anne McNeill of Hodder says: ‘Children who read [the Famous Five books] need to be able to easily understand the characterisations and easily to get into the plots. If the text is revised [they’re] more likely to be able to engage with them.’ Are the words ‘peculiar’ and ‘fellow’ really that problematic? As the Enid Blyton Society’s Tony Summerfield suggests, these seem like changes for the sake of it, and Blyton, whose books have already been edited for more understandable reasons of political correctness, is an easy target. Her writing has been repeatedly criticised for being too simple and unchallenging and now it has supposedly become too difficult, archaic and inaccessible (this is not born out by Blyton’s continued sales and popularity).

Personally, I don’t feel that it is really necessary to make everything ahistorical. What about stimulating curiosity about the past? Isn’t it important to understand that society and language have not always been the same as they are now? I do think it is a shame to not give children the opportunity to grapple with, or perhaps even enjoy this idea.

Ultimately, however, it probably doesn’t make that much difference. My selective childhood memory only really recalled the plots, characters and settings of the original stories, and while I remember being a little puzzled by some of the odd phrases and items mentioned it never impinged upon my enjoyment of the books, or put me off reading them. It is only upon recent re-readings that I’ve really started to pick up on and relish the period detail (although I never really liked the Spandau Ballet hair and stonewashed jeans on the covers of my 80s editions).

I can’t help but wonder where all this re-editing will end though. ‘Bestselling children’s author’ Andy Briggs is quoted as saying: ‘It’s an unfortunate necessity… The classic books we were brought up on – the Famous Five, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes – need to be updated.’ Eek.

[I hasten to add that I thoroughly enjoyed Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’s contemporary-set Sherlock, screened on BBC 1 last Sunday. The Guardian reviewer thought the ‘three patch problem’ was laboured but I thought it was hilarious, as was the reference to the location of Watson’s war injury – one for all the nerdy Sherlockians out there. It’s not quite the same as re-writing all of Conan Doyle’s books though, is it?]

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