Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Friday, 14 October 2011

Sifting Through the Memories

Alan only had to mention the word ‘cooking’ in this week’s Sepia Saturday and I knew exactly what I wanted to write about.





My Sister-in-Law, like me, is now a grandma, but when she was a little girl herself she was one of the famous Be-Ro girls. Her picture adorned the front of the ‘Home Recipes’ booklet, striking the same familar pose as the original, and each successive, model, pointing at a copy of the booklet whilst surrounded by baking paraphernalia. She wore a blue shirt and a red and white check bib-pinafore, and sported the sensible schoolgirl haircut of a wavy bob. She had that look of fresh-faced innocence that Be-Ro obviously felt was necessary to promote their flour. Later, a line-drawing of the photo was printed on the side of the flour bags themselves. Her aunt also worked for the company and she herself had appeared in a ‘family group’ picture on one of the previous editions of the book. She suggested her niece as the new model and the rest is (family) history. As far as I know there was no financial remuneration and the reward was the kudos of having her face on the Be-Ro bags and recipe booklets.


I wondered if this early exposure to the world of baking influenced her choice of career, as she went to Nottingham’s Clarendon College to study Catering, and had jobs closely connected with food all her life. She retired a couple of years ago from the City Hospital, where she worked as a Nutritionist. Whenever a celebration called for a cake, my clever Sister-in-Law was the one who created it. She made my wedding cake and more recently, both my parents’ 90th birthday cakes.


The booklet is now in its 41st edition, but is no longer free as it was in the early days. My Sister-in-Law still treasures her copy. It’s a much loved little book full of useful basic recipes and there are many internet stories of dog-eared copies which still hold a special place on the cookery book shelves. In 2008 The Independent newspaper featured it in its list of the 50 Best Cookbooks, and it’s not difficult to see why.

When she was a young woman the local paper reported her story, with a cleverly punning headline which I would have loved to have used for this post. My Sister-in-Law tells the story of how one admirer, and collector of recipe books, sent a copy of the booklet for her to autograph; fame indeed!

A centenary biscuit tin was produced, sadly not with my Sister-in-Law on the lid, but the smiling face of a previous model. I expect these are now collectors’ items too.

Clicking on the Be-Ro link above will take you to company’s homepage where there is a fascinating potted history of how Thomas Bell founded his flour company ‘Bell’s Royal’ but had to change the name after the death of Edward VII, and so a conflation of the two words became Be-Ro. The booklet was originally given away free to promote not just the flour but to assist families working to a low budget and trying to provide good home baking. If you want to try out some of the recipes yourselves, from Almond Biscuits to Yorkshire Puddings, click here and if you’d like to see what other contributors are cooking up, have a look at Sepia Saturday, there are bound to be some interesting takes on Alan’s prompt.

I’m also linking to Beth Read’s Weekend Cooking. Beth welcomes any post vaguely foodie related and contributors always cook up a great menu of interesting posts.


25 comments:

  1. What a truly fascinating post, perfectly made with all the necessary ingredients.

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  2. What a lovely post - and what fun to be the Be-Ro girl. A real piece of social history and a great claim to fame for your sister in law.

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  3. A wonderful story. Be-Ro isn't familiar to me, but I suppose our equivalent in New Zealand must be the Edmonds Cookery book, which had its centenary in 2008. My daughters' favourite!

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  4. Wow, this is just a really neat post, and so packed with information and photos, all about something I am learning of for the first time! Thanks so much! How exciting it must have been!

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  5. I don't like the name "Be-Ro," but I love the booklet and your post and your title. It's too bad they couldn't keep the Bell's Royal name.

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  6. How fun! At first glance I thought the recipe booklet very modern, but really just for one reason. While scones may have been a British tradition for some time, they have only become popular here in the United States over the last 15 years or so. Maybe Yorkshire pudding is next?

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  7. Wonderful post. This blog should come with a free cake!

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  8. You've cooked up a winner with this post! LOL

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  9. I still have my mother's Be-Ro baking book - and still use it! Such down to earth recipes written in an easy to follow way. I love it.
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

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  10. We still have a Be-Ro baking book, even I know where it is. I knew nothing of its history or where the name came from. You have it in your history. Great poats, Nell.

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  11. Great take on the theme! Makes me wish I had a copy of the Be-Ro baking book. Somehow, the website just isn't the same.

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  12. Hi Little Nell, this is so cool, all the way around. I haven't even heard of this company before. Thank you for sharing this great post with us.

    Kathy M.

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  13. How very, very cool! Such an interesting post. I too haven't heard of Be-Ro, although I lived in the UK for the better part of 1984. I wonder what kind of flour I bought. Maybe it was Be-Ro and I just don't remember.

    I'm going to check out the company's website and I'll be on the look-out for any old recipe booklets when I go to yard sales and flea markets.

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  14. What an interesting post :)
    Living in the US, I had not heard of Be-Ro before.

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  15. What a wonderful post. I am not familiar with Be-Ro. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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  16. very impressive mam,good job,its my pleasure if you join my blog

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  17. What a fabulous post, and what a great bit of family history for your sis-in-law. Scarlett x

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  18. I don't think I can lay my hands on a Be-Ro recipe book just now but we most certainly once did have one. The scene with the family sitting down to tea around a laden table brings back wonderful memories.

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  19. What a perfect model of a photo-blog story! Highest marks for photos, theme, and writing.

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  20. I love this post. Love retro cookbooks.
    I really liked the newspaper article with the then and now photos.
    Great post.
    Nancy Javier
    Ladies of the grove

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  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  22. What a cracking pun they came up with!
    I love your posts, they are like interesting, fun recent history lessons, if only school has been like this!

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  23. Sorry Lucewoman I eagerly posted your first comment and then realised you probably hadn’t intended that one and preferred the second one. Just so that everyone knows!

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  24. an interesting claim to fame!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

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