Book Review:WI Cookbook The First 100 years by Mary Gwynn

The WI gives you an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know or couldn’t do yesterday – Marchwood WI member

I have a confession. I’m in my 30’s and I can’t cook. Tragic, I know.What makes this situation worse is that my mum is actually a Home Economics  (also known as ‘Home eccies’ in Glaswegian) teacher. You would think that I would have picked something up along the way. But naw! I can’t even toast a bit of bread without burning it – Ask any member of my long suffering family.

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Available at all good bookshops. 

So keeping this in mind, I thought I would purchase a cook book which help me improve my cooking skills. After searching through hundreds of potential books on Amazon I settled on the WI Cookbook: The First 100 years by Mary Gwynn.

I think what initially attracted me to the publication, apart from the rather fetching flow pink and grey cover,  was the close relationship of WI history and cooking recipes.  Gwynn gives a lovely little introduction to the history of the Women’s Institute (WI), with an accompanying timeline of key dates which have affected the WI, women, or cooking.

IMG_0019 (2)Throughout the chapters she includes little snippets of oral history transcripts such as ‘Since joining East Ealing WI I’ve gained confidence, made amazing friends and become happy with who I am,’ and ‘The WI crosses all boundaries…..The jam and cakes image gives way to an era of politics and caring concern.’ Although something so small, this attention to detail through personal memories really does create depth to the book; putting a human face to the recipes and highlighting the eclectic mixture of people who actually make up the WI. 

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Accompanying these little oral history nuggets are wonderful photographs demonstrating the WI story; and how the organisation developed and changed throughout the years. Like seriously,  just look at how bloody wonderful these archival photographs are! Makes you want to join, right?

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Each chapter is split into periods e.g. 1915 -1925, taking the wannabe chef or baker through the decades from 1915 up to 2015. The book gives the popular dishes of the period (such as Economy Cake from 1921 and Thai Red Prawn Curry from 2003) with handy tips and WI photographs illustrating what the Women’s Institute achieved within that period.

So did this make me a better cook? To be honest the jury is out on that one as I must say I have been too engrossed with the heritage aspect of the cookbook to try many of the recipes. But in the true spirit of the WI it does make me want to learn something I didn’t know or couldn’t do yesterday!

If you would like to find out more about the Women’s Institute, or how to join please click here for The Scottish Women’s Institute or here for the rest of Britain 



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