We don’t hand down family recipes any more. That’s not a bad thing

I want to pass on an enthusiasm for food – not my mother’s spaghetti marrow

Recently on the Radio 4 food show The Kitchen Cabinet, the panel were asked to name dishes they had inherited from their parents. There was sweet talk of dense stews and shepherd’s pies. As the chair of the show I wasn’t required to answer and I was grateful for the fact. It may sound disloyal but I didn’t have much to say. There’s a salad – lots of thinly sliced peppers, red onions and torn basil – which I picked up from my mother, but I think she got it out of Craig Claiborne’s New York Times cookbook. Other than that, while my mother was a good cook, she was very much of her time. I have no desire to make the utter faff that is coulibiac (salmon, wild rice and boiled eggs in a puff pastry shell; her go-to dinner party dish) and I will not torture my kids with spaghetti marrow as she once tortured me.

I suspect that I am not alone. We may now inherit an interest in the table from our parents but not the dishes themselves. In this there are many who think wistfully that we have lost something, which is to misunderstand what the passing on of recipes was all about. The key inherited dishes of Britain, the sort documented by the social historian Dorothy Hartley in her 1954 book Food in England, were inherited by necessity rather than a sentimental attachment to “the old ways”.

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