In 1942 the celebrated 20th century foodie M.F.K. Fisher took it upon herself to write a book which would not just help people to "keep the wolf from the door", it would enable them to invite it into the cooking pot. In the introduction to a revised edition in 1951, just nine years after its original publication, she described the book as a "period piece", but it goes a long way beyond that.
The idea of getting back to basics can always cause us to rethink things. At least it can when it is put out by such capable pen as M.F.K. Fisher. Each chapter of this book takes us through a different aspect of overcoming the obstacles to producing great food in straightened circumstances.
First we learn How to Be Sage Without Hemlock - to cope with equanimity when ingredients are not available. After briefly touching on How to Catch the Wolf - a discussion of thrift and common sense husbandry, she moves on to a substantial discussion of techniques for preserving, and eking out what you have.
This is all followed by a beautiful chapter called How to Boil Water where we are taken through all types of meals that begin with boiling water. To introduce the topic are four pages simply discussing boiling water, before the ingredients start getting tossed in, along with recipes for consomme. Things start thickening quickly as we are taken through recipes for soups, chowders, minestrone and potage.
Further chapters cover fish, eggs, frugality, baking, meats, game , starchy foods, vegetables, all interspersed with recipes and anecdotes in M.F.K. Fisher's inimitable way.
There is masses of other advice in there for anyone practising economy, or for anyone who wants a glimpse of yesteryear, for indeed many of the recipes for things like mouthwash or soap are not something you are likely to find in many more modern books.
I have yet to find a book by M.F.K. Fisher that doesn't send me off into daydreams of a less complicated world, but this has to be one of her classics.