Sunday, 25 July 2010

Jam and books

Two firsts for me this week. The first was making jam (as opposed to lemon curd, which I'm very good at) and the second was making scones - I usually buy them. Reading vintage novels for girls does tend to make you think of food more as someone is always preparing a picnic or a feast with iced cakes and fizz. I wanted to try making jam, but a tangy (not overly sweet) jam. Strawberry and gooseberry sounded ideal and does indeed taste delicious. Next time, though, I may cut the fruit a little smaller, just to make eating (and balancing the jam on the toast) easier.

I can even find you a novel about jam-making. Madge Smith, who wrote under many similar names, wrote a gentle little tale in the Gwendoline Courtney vein of preserving an English heritage and building one's own family in the 1940s and 1950s. Jam Today is a comforting sort of summery book where two girls leave school to set up a jam factory in their decaying country home. Our practical tomboy heroine rejects the offer of a place at a smart finishing school to remain in Devon and develop a jam-making business in the hope that she can keep the family home (far too dilapidated to be stately) and land (a useful 20 acres). Assuming she can earn an income from the estate, she can revitalise her home and family. Her mother, a faded beauty and keen on smart society, is disappointed and aghast that her daughter should wish to run her own life along modern lines. It's the usual 'let's run the show right here' type with the girl (at least) finishing her domestic science course at school before striking out in the brave post-war world to combine tradition and entrepreneurship. Without the jam-making and business-building, we see the standard reliance on established values of friendship, honesty, trust in headmistresses, godparents and doctors and a love of folk-dancing.

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