All entries for Thursday 01 October 2015

October 01, 2015

Simple Scoff: A Warwick community cookbook

Rebecca EarleBack in 1972, we published a cookbook full of recipes submitted by our students and staff, called Simple Scoff. To celebrate our 50th anniversary, we're releasing a new version of the book, featuring cheap, simple recipes and cooking tips from around the University.

What can we expect in the new book and what does it tell us about how our eating habits have changed over the last 40 years? Professor Rebecca Earle from our School of Comparative American Studies has been coordinating the project and tells us more about it in today's 50@50.


What was Simple Scoff and why did you decide to get involved in publishing the new version?

I didn’t know anything about it until Sarah Shalgowsky, the curator at the Mead Gallery, told me about it. It’s a small paperback with recipes contributed by Warwick students and a miscellaneous handful of other people (including, mysteriously, someone from the Oslo Music Conservatory!) It’s very chatty in tone, and is peppered with food-themed cartoons from ‘Cosgrove’, who in reality was Ian Stewart, then a lecturer in the Maths Institute. As soon as I saw it I knew we had to make a new version.

The original Simple Scoff is utterly charming: the voices of the editors come through so clearly, and the recipes are so redolent of the early 1970s. I think the dish called ‘vegetable splog’ sums things up, but there are also lots of really tasty dishes—the stuffed herrings are absolutely worth making, for instance. Anyway, I spend far too much time reading cookbooks, and I work on the history of food, so it was perhaps inevitable that sooner or later I’d try to put together a cookbook.


Tell us a bit about the new book. Who has contributed to it?

It’s a ‘community cookbook’: the recipes were contributed by people from across the university community, from undergraduates in the English Department to postgraduates in Engineering, and from adminstrative officers in the History Department to the head of Catering. Most recipes have a little introduction from the contributor that explains how the recipe was invented, or what its particular features are, etc. So each recipe is very personal. There are about 150 recipes, from breakfast dishes to puddings. There are also several complete menus, including an ‘Immune Defense Menu’ to ward off freshers' flu, and lots of little snacks and nibbles. There are lots of vegan and vegetarian recipes, too.

The recipes were submitted online along with, in many cases, photos of the dish, and sometimes even step-by-step photos showing the different stages of preparation. I was astonished at how adept students are in food photography. I guess it’s the effect of Instagram.

simple_scoff.jpg

Do you have a favourite recipe in the book?

Hmm. I really like the onion bhajis - they just work perfectly. I’ll be making those a lot. Also the Indian carrot pudding recipe is really excellent. Also the ‘cardaffron cake’, which combines cardamom and saffron. There are so many tasty recipes...


Are there any surprising recipes in the book?

I didn’t expect as many ‘raw’ food recipes. There are clearly quite a few students equipped with spiralisers. There’s a really imaginative breakfast dish where you make a sort of spicy eggy bread but using a crumpet instead of bread. And then there’s the triple-layer brownie recipe... a layer of chocolate chip cookie dough, a layer of oreos drizzled with dulce de leche, and a layer of brownie dough, all topped off with fleur de sel. My younger son was sceptical at first (‘what is the point?’, he asked) but once he tasted them he pronounced them the best brownies he’d ever eaten.


Does the new version demonstrate how students’ eating habits have changed over time?

Student eating habits have changed enormously! For instance, there were so many recipes for curries, dhals and other Indian dishes that the new cookbook has an entire section on curries and the like. The old cookbook had, I think, one recipe for curry. Nearly half the new recipes are vegetarian or vegan. The old cookbook had a rather unenthusiastic section of vegetarianism saying it wasn’t really such a great idea but that if you absolutely didn’t want to eat meat there were a few suitable recipes on such and such pages.

The new recipes employ a much broader range of seasonings and spices, too - from fresh coriander and za’atar to Sriracha and fresh chillies. Also, the recipes not only come from all sorts of different culinary traditions—from Korea and Hungary to Paraguay and Sweden— but they have also been contributed from students from all over the world, which reflects the really diverse, international community. I think the recipes reflect the University in a very nice way.


How can we get hold of a copy?

The book will be on sale (for £4.99) in the Warwick Bookshop, and online here. All proceeds will be used to support the University’s Warwick in Africa and Warwick in India programmes. And freshers will be given a free copy in their welcome packs when they arrive next week!


Based on the differences between the old and the new book, do you have any predictions about how students’ eating habits will change over the next 50 years?

I would like to be able to say that students will be eating much more fresh, locally-grown, sustainable food, but I think that’s very unlikely. Supermarkets, where the great majority of people in the UK get their food, are part of a global food system that offers great variety and choice, but at a cost. Students, like many people, are often unsure where their food came from and don’t have a clear sense of what’s in season right here, in the Midlands, right now. This makes it hard to be an informed eater. It would be great if in 50 years students could be eating tasty food grown - let’s dream a little! - right here on the campus!

Buy your copy of Simple Scoff on the Bookstore's website >>


Simple Scoff at the Festival of the Imagination

Want to find out more about Simple Scoff and student cookery? Come along to our Festival of the Imagination on Saturday 17 October to hear from members of the University, including former BBC media correspondent and Warwick alumnus Torin Douglas, author of Simple Scoff Serena Macbeth, University Development Chef Graham Crump, Professor Rebecca Earle and Warwick Students' Union President Isaac Leigh as they take a look at student cookery then and now. Book your tickets >>

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