Cooking in a Bedsitter by Katharine Whitehorn – review

Cooking in a bedsitter “The famous book – in print for over 40 years”. This must be the cookbook equivalent of The Mousetrap (handy in the old-fashioned bedsit). Katharine Whitehorn has written this little gem which could be retitled “My First Cookbook”.

My young or foreign (from outside the UK) readers might not even know what a bedsitter was. Yes, it was someone who sat on a bed, that being mostly the only place to sit, but it was also the name given to the room, a combination of bedroom and sitting-room. Large Victorian houses were divided into single-room accommodation. There was a shared bathroom and almost never access to a real kitchen.

Katharine produced this book to aid all those who only had a single gas ring and no fridge. Although she has the bedsit in mind this volume works just as well for anyone who needs to cook quick and easy meals. You might have a full-sized range with an extractor that rises at the back like the organ in a 1930 cinema, but it will do you no good if you don’t know how to boil an egg!

Cooking in a Bedsitter will shepherd you through every cooking technique and every ingredient that might cross your path. The recipes are simple and you’ll have no problem with any of them. It’s a book that has stood the test of time, so be trusting.

There is a classic recipe for Frying Pan Pizza. It sounds a bit odd but it’s real comfort food. The base is almost scone-like and the kids will love it.  They will also love the Jam Fritters but probably not after the Pizza! There is a section on meals which can be made the day before, and a chapter on drinks and parties which has the cost of providing booze for four people as £1  4s.6d. (£1.22). That’s utter nostalgia, and charming.

These are not daft recipes. They all work and all of them (OK, not the tripe) would be delicious. It’s written with Katharine’s unique wit shining through. It’s not just for bedsit dwellers but for anyone short of space or money. This would be a godsend on a camping trip or in student flats. A great book, thanks Katherine.

Cooking in a Bedsitter
Author: Katharine Whitehorn
Published by: Virago Press
Price: £8.99
ISBN 978-1-84408-568-2


Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018