Anne Edwards Dishes on Steak and Kidney

Anne Edwards was a supremely successful columnist and author in the mid-20th century. She wrote mainly for Beaverbrook’s Daily Express but also other media.

The long-lived writer (1909-2005) had the magic touch for her chosen subjects: fashion, food, etiquette, celebrities, and youth advice, in the main.

Her Monday morning column was widely read by the nation. Some columns were reprinted far afield, including this 1956 example in the Iraq Times.

The article showcased a typical British dish, steak and kidney pie. In trademark crisp fashion she solicited the views of three chefs. She challenged them to cook their version for a compare and contrast.

She even included the recipes.

The modern-sounding piece, with its democratic spirit, presaged the cooking competitions and other food shows of today.

Good old steak and kidney pie. And the lesser-known pudding version. Most, surely, would rank them among the trad dishes of the British kitchen. Beth Watson of British Study Centre put steak and kidney in her top 10 listing a few years ago.

I like her other choices too, e.g. roast dinner, fish and chips, chicken tikka masala, and full English breakfast.

I confess I’d never heard of Eton Mess, but it looks worthy.

Mr. Allouis, of a “theatrical restaurant” known for its steak and kidney pie, told Edwards beer was optional at best for the dish. I was pleased to read that, as it’s my own conclusion from years of experimentation and reading.

(Beer is great in many dishes, but different ones).

Anne Edwards diplomatically gave the palm to each version, and marvelled how different opinions and methods can all produce a fine dishe. True then as now.

The inclusion of steak and kidney pie in the British pantheon belies an interesting fact. The dish cannot be traced before the mid-19th century. Presumably it did exist in oral tradition, or in manuscripts for home use, but not published cookery works, to my awareness.

But that’s a different matter – of food history. Anne Edwards was writing for the here and now, to inform and entertain. The typical reader might ride the morning bus to Piccadilly, or take the tube.

Through the simple passage of time, her article is today very much a part of food history. One of those interesting inversions.