Anne Edwards Dishes on Steak and Kidney

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

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

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

It 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 tone, presaged the cooking competitions and other productions of food media of today.

Good old steak and kidney pie and the lesser-known pudding version remain among the traditional 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 the other choices too, 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 and no jokes about the name please.

Mr. Allouis, of a “theatrical restaurant” known for its steak and kidney pie, told Anne Edwards beer was optional at best for the dish. It was good 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 she tested. She marvelled how different opinions and methods can still produce a fine dish. True then as now, for most foods.

Steak and kidney pie in the British pantheon belies an interesting fact. It can’t 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 knowledge.

But that’s a different matter – of food history. Anne Edwards was concerned for the here and now, to inform and (mostly) entertain. Her typical reader was on the morning bus to Piccadilly, or in the tube, or in a corner cafe with cigarette.

Through the simple passage of time, her article is, now, very much food history.