It is not often that one feels the weight of history upon one’s stomach, but this is such a time. The book you are holding in your hands contains some of the finest dishes known to man, bringing together as it does his two greatest pleasures: food, and booze.
These recipes have been gathered and archived by my family for many generations. The Bones are an ancient line, extending back through the famous de Beaune vintners of France who arrived with the Norman Conquest, and beyond, and in more recent times we have done our best to maintain the old ways.
My maternal grandfather was well known in the County for his extraordinary home-brews. He claimed to have invented a new kind of Pimms, and the release of his Attic Stout No 4 upon an unsuspecting village fête led directly to the defrocking of a bishop and the loss of an entire scout troop. My grandfather on my father’s side was also a disciple of the finer things. After an unfortunate incident in the Sudan, when his regiment lost an entire Christmas’ beer supply to a freak sandstorm, he swore never to go without again, and was heard to remark on his 90th birthday that he would consider putting more tonic than gin into his daily G&T, but the suggestion was unlikely to meet with much support.
The civilising effects of the gentler sex in the form of their respective wives went some way to persuading both of them to reduce their liquid intake and increase their solids, leading directly to many of the recipes set down upon these pages. I learnt much from these fine ladies – not least my grandmother’s assertion that “the difference between a good cook and a great cook is half a pound of butter.”
I urge you to heed such words as you peruse this compendium, and consider what you may learn from it. Be liberal in your measures, and adventurous in your sampling. If you don’t have the stated ingredients to hand, substitute freely, and if you come across obscure terminology and foodstuffs that bewilder you, then the electronic telegraph and its modern incarnations are your friend.
Now, some may tell you that attempting to use alcohol in a cooked dish is a waste of time, and that all the good stuff will evaporate off long before it reaches your palate. Well, opinion is divided on the issue – and this tome certainly contains weak as well as strong dishes – but the Angels must have their share, and if you feel hard done by, slosh in a little more.
To those who say such a concentration on the products of fermentation and distillation – surely God’s greatest gifts to man – are injurious to health, I can only say that I am long in the tooth, and blue in the conk, but none of them have done me any harm. Life is short, and the time between good meals is longer than it needs to be. Enjoy such fruits while you may, and do take care of my cat.