Recipes of All Nations by 'Countess Morphy': Cookbook review Restaurants, Wine, Travel, Opinions

Recipes of All Nations by 'Countess Morphy'

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Country: United Kingdom

Recipes of All Nations by 'Countess Morphy' is a fascinating tour of recipes from all around the world that was very popular in the United Kingdom in the 1930s. It has some flaws and the author probably wasn't a countess, but it is still an interesting read and there are some excellent recipes.
The author was probably (not definitely) born in New Orleans as Marcelle Azra Hincks. Following a suggestion by a UK researcher called Lloyd Beldon Lacy, we were able to establish from the New Orleans birth register that such a person was indeed born to Edgar Hincks and Louise Pemberton on the 25th October 1883.
It is likely that Marcelle moved to England as there are many records of an author by this name publishing food and dance books (The Japanese Dance) in the early part of the twentieth century. We also located records of an author under the same name publishing a column on dance in the New Age in 1910.
It is somewhat likely that the Morphy name is derived from a cousin of her father Edgar Hincks (their relationship is quoted in a book by Regina Morphy entitled Life of Paul Morphy). His cousin was the famous Paul Morphy who dominated the world of chess in the middle part of the 19th Century. He was a child prodigy and even today chess masters still study his games and laud his aggressive moves. After defeating various European champions he returned to New Orleans and retired from chess playing. (We have included a link to a recent book about Morphy's prodigious chess career.)
In her book, prominence is naturally given to France, with that country being awarded the opening chapter. Soups start with ambitious recipes such as Pot-au-Feu and Bouillabaisse , the problem being that she substitutes English equivalents for the fish. A Bouillabaisse just never tastes the same if the base hasn't been prepared using the Mediterranean Rascasse.
However she is on safer ground when she provides a recipe for the veal and kidney fat meatball called Le Godiveau. Here she includes all the many steps necessary to prepare these lovely meatballs to provide the required consistency of texture. She pays homage to Napoleon with the inclusion of the recipe for Chicken Marengo and to Paris with a recipe for Pont Neuf potatoes.
And so, the first one hundred pages are devoted to all things French. From the mastery of the recipes shown on these pages it is quite likely that she had travelled in France or at least had spent a lot of time in circles that were devoted to all things French. Of course, this would also hark back to her upbringing in New Orleans which was, at the time, regarded as an outpost of Paris.
Next country in line is Italy where we know that she spent some time travelling. This is born out by her complaint that the Osso Buco served in London is nothing like the equivalent in Italy 'as suckling calf should be used and this is practically unobtainable in this country'.
And so the tour continues to Spain and Portugal and then through Austria to Hungary, Germany, Russia across to Norway and down to Belgium. The United Stated is then featured along with a special entry for New Orleans which supports the contention about her upbringing. Then we are on to India and China where the recipes are more stereotyped. South America, the Middle East, the Balkans and Africa are also given attention in the final pages.
It is surprising just how many of the recipes are still quite valuable. Because she wrote before the widespread use of chemicals and stock powders and cubes the recipes are sometimes quite modern.
This book is both an historical curiosity and a valuable addition to your recipe library.

The book below is a dedicated to the life of Paul Morphy, the famous chess player mentioned in the review.

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