With the first daffodils and snowdrops appearing I thought it was time to get on with a spring clean, but not being best friends with the hoover or duster I thought I’d procrastinate and make some nice home made washing powder and leaf through some old household manuals for tips instead, well after all boring women have tidy houses.
Sitting with a nice cuppa, watching the dust settle and perusing my battered Victorian and Edwardian manuals I came across all sorts of cleaning tips from scattering damp tea leaves on rugs to freshen them to scouring pans with egg-shells; but I must admit that I was most taken with the laundry tips.
Whilst we have modern washing machines to tackle the bulk of our weekly laundry needs there are some delicate garments that benefit from being washed and treated with a little vintage tender loving care. I love vintage clothes and linen, but the care of them does take a little fathoming, modern machines and powders don’t do them a lot of good.
I have made a brilliant home made washing powder by mixing 225g washing soda with 225g borax and adding a grated bar of pure vegetable soap. I got the girls to help me and it has worked a treat on all my old linen tablecloths and some Edwardian aprons that were in need of a good wash.
When washing silk I find adding a teaspoonful of methylated spirits to the rinsing water helps preserve the natural sheen of the silk, this is a tip I gleaned from a few old household manuals I have lurking on my bookshelf.
Whereas, to revive black lace and indeed small black crepe items, wash thoroughly in cold beer. Press the washed item between two clean towels to dry and then pin the lace to a fresh towel, according to its shape and then when it is nearly dry cover it with a thin towel and iron it with a cool iron.
Now I love a nice cup of tea, but I hate finding tea stains on linen, and being a bit of a heirloom linen hoarder I battle with the problem of removing old tea stains regularly. So to remove tea stains from linen place I place the item into a large pan of cold water and add one tablespoon of turpentine (pure turpentine available from artist’s shops) for every four pints of cold water added. Bring the pan with the linen in to the boil and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes before allowing to cool, ringing and rinsing in fresh, clean water. I use my great big old ‘school dinner’ boiling pan for this job….it may be big and ugly but it’s fabulous for this job.
Finally whilst I recommend drinking red wine whole heartedly, it can be a pain if spilt, so to remove fresh Wine stains from linen clothes hold the affected area in freshly boiled milk and then rinse thoroughly in clean water. Then wash as usual.
Well, after all that laundry work I think it may well be time for a glass of milk….better start boiling the milk now in case of spillage!
Food has always been of great importance to Seren and despite her being renowned for her historical recipe recreations, her culinary skills were not honed, in the kitchens of top restaurants, but in the home kitchen from the age of being able to hold a wooden spoon.
When Seren was born her mother was taken ill and so she spent her early years being cared for by her grandmother, Minnie. This was to prove instrumental in the development of Seren’s love of cooking, for her grandmother was an accomplished cook, who’s kitchen was always awash with terrine’s, home-made pastry and traditional puddings. Minnie’s love of good food and her zest for life meant Seren’s childhood was filled with days of hedgerow picking, baking, traditional preserving and cooking recipes from the depths of a family copy of, Mrs. Beeton. She learned from an early age how to make Victorian puddings alongside elaborate noble pies and perhaps this explains her love of pastry making and the reason she won an accolade from The Great British Pie Awards this year.
Today Seren has great skill in bringing historical food to life and making it accessible and understandable to the modern cook and diner. Her enthusiasm and love of historical food and British cooking is evident in her presentations and she loves to revive forgotten recipes. She recently took part in ITV1’s Country House Sunday and has given live cookery demonstrations across the country at food festivals, historical houses and castles.
Trained as a herbalist and nutritionist, she has a deep understanding of improving health through food. Her interest in historic remedies and herbal folklore eventually extended to researching British food history, and reignited her early passion for cooking. Fifteen years on and Seren has amassed extensive knowledge and is now renowned for her historical food recreations and interpretations.
Seren’s interest in food history does not just extend to old recipes and cooking techniques, but to ingredients and manufacturers. From the age of fourteen Seren has collected food and drink packaging from early Victorian to the 1960’s. Her collection is now extensive and provides a wonderful snapshot in time that accompanies her vast knowledge of the development of British food and drink companies throughout history. She also has a huge collection of antique kitchenalia and moulds which she uses to replicate historical recipes and portray past eras.
Her training in herbalism and nutrition has not been wasted for despite her merits as a food historian and period cook she also delights in creating British Classic dishes for those with food allergies and intolerances (such as gluten and dairy intolerant). Her botanical knowledge has made her a keen wild food educator and forager that lends unusual as well as historical twists to all her cooking. There are also many points at which food and medicine intertwine throughout history and Seren is able to portray these developments and has also undertaken a lot of research into the British spice trade.
To Seren historical food is not a job, but a way of life.
Visit Seren's blog: Serenity Kitchen