[from 16 May the Diary is again in Orwell’s hand]
London: Weather for the most part showery, with fine intervals. In Greenwich Park, chestnuts, pink chestnuts (but not Spanish ones) in flower, also lilac, hawthorn. Some of the wild ducks have ducklings. Some roses in bud. Tulips & wallflowers about at their best. Noted the following named tulips, all good kinds: Venus (cerise rose), Louis XIV (brownish mauve), Pride of Harlem (bright pink), Remembrance (pale mauve), Ambrosia (Daily Mail rose), Bartigon (sealing wax red), Nauticus (magenta), Rev. Ewbank (very pale mauve), Sultan (very dark brown, almost black).


I can recommend the use of sour milk in the following old-fashioned cake recipe. 1lb flour, 1teaspoon bicarbonate soda, 1/4lb sugar, 1/4 lb currants, 1/4 lb sultanas, 2oz candied peel, 1/2 nutmeg, 1/4 lb fat – margarine is best – 1/2 pt sour milk.
Sift flour and soda, rub in margarine, add sugar and fruit and grated nutmeg. Mix well with sour milk to a dropping consistency. Bake for 1 hour in moderate oven. When turned out this cake should be very brown, like Christmas cake. It can be kept fresh for weeks in an airtight tin. – Tested by (Miss) DOROTHY ASHTON, Newcote, Agarneds-road, Freshfield, Lancs.

Pour the sour milk into fruit dishes about 12-18 hours before it is wanted; keep it in a warm place. It will set and before serving sprinkle it with grated brown bread and brown sugar mixed. There should be some whey at the bottom of the dish, this should not be eaten. – Tested by Mrs ELLEN KETTLE, 7, Digby-road, Ipswitch.

In all countries where yoghourt is popular sour milk is used to turn fresh milk quickly, otherwise the yoghourt is bitter. Put half a pint of sour milk into a warmed basin. Pour over 1 pint of milk warmed to bloodheat. Cover and leave in a warm place for 11/2 to 2 hours.
When the milk is thick like junket, stir well and then leave in cool place or on ice till required. – Tested by ELSA WEBER, 10, Castlenau-gardens, S.W.13.

Whisk 1 pint of sour milk and half-a-pint of sour cream to a stiff froth. Add three or four tablespoons of good claret to it, and serve at once with ratafias or sweet rusks. – Tested by E.M. KNOWLES, 35, Hunter House, Hunter-street, W.C.1.

One breakfastcupful thick sour milk, 2 hard-boiled yolks of eggs, 1 dessert-spoonful castor sugar, 1 saltspoonful salt, 1 saltspoonful dry mustard, 1 tablespoonful white wine vinegar.
Mix egg yolks, salt, mustard and sugar into a paste. Beat up the milk with an egg-beater and mix gradually with the paste. When mixed, beat again till like a cream. Just before serving add the vinegar. – Tested by Mrs LEE, The Cottage, North Curry, Taunton.

Two pints milk, pint sour milk, 1lb barley, pint fresh cream.
This is a typically national Latvian dish. After well washing barley, cook till soft in about 2 pints water, then add fresh milk and cook 10 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Stir in sour milk and lastly add fresh cream,
This is a particularly nourishing dish and is a favourite eaten in hot weather as well as in winter. It is eaten hot or cold, with black peas or herring and potatoes. It can also be pickled by leaving for 2 or 3 days covered, and then ut ua a very refreshing summer dish. – Tested by Miss AGNES STRUTHERS, Dalreo, Ganghill, nr. Guildford, Surrey.

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25 Responses to 16.5.39.

  1. George~~

    I will plant a vast bed of Nauticus for next Spring. I will use Daffodils for contrast. Next update: February-March 2010 [aka Spring in the Metroplex].

    Rather than read the recipes you have so graciously shared with us, I have ordered my cooking staff to prepare and serve them in the order they are presented.

    I would also like to commend the Testers for their bravery and devotion to duty.

  2. Fay Shirley says:

    Two or three years after this entry my mother was buying sour milk (sold cheaply and off ration by a London dairy) and making her own soft cheese. Maybe she read the “Danish recipe”.

  3. M. Serapis says:

    I must say, some of these recipes sound rather distasteful!

  4. Steve says:

    They must not have fed him anything in hospital, and he emerged ready to eat anything. I hope the baby pigeon escaped.

  5. SomeGuy says:

    I grew up on sour milk and home-made white cheese very much along the lines being described by Orwell.

    The fact that simple, decent food now strikes people as “distasteful” while they are perfectly content to gorge themselves on liquid corn syrup and bleached flour dough ‘pizza’ (or similar culinary atrocities) is testament to the victory of bland capitalism over European culture.

    As Jane Jacobs puts it in ‘Dark Age Ahead’: not only have we forgotten how to eat, we have forgotten that we have forgotten.

  6. I am no longer trying to figure out who transported the nest with the birdie in it to outside the window; or if it had been using a cloaking device until revealing itself for whatever reason; or if it was, perhaps, a mirage; or a hologram; or fiction.

    I have rationally and objectively determined that the Blair’s intentionally withheld the existence of an actual young bird in an actual nest (and, presumably, even the previous existence of the nest) until they actually felt like revealing the startling news. This maneuver emphasizes the difficulties one encounters when attempting to read another’s mind, even seven decades later, expecting to get in the loop.
    Filmjolk is delicious with a mound of barbecued pigeon wings, by the way.

  7. Fay Shirley says:


  8. Fay Shirley says:

    Sorry, I see, I should have googled it.

  9. itwasntme says:

    This entry is a reminder of the days before good home refrigeration. Lots of milk gone sour, too valuable to waste.

    I must admit the salad dressing sounds really disgusting with those egg yolks added, but after all, sour cream is often used, so may not be so bad. I probably should try it out before I judge.

  10. My investigative staff has uncovered video of the Tester known as “E.M. KNOWLES” in the act of testing the alleged Swedish Filmjolk; the following is a synopsis:

    Employing precision choreography, he expertly whips up a pungent bucket of froth, pours claret generously all over it, greedily spoons in copious mouthfuls, desperately guzzles some ratafia and zealously masticates rusks—all while maintaining a puzzled look on his face during this fast-paced loop which only ends when the bucket is empty. A large cask of ratafia is visible to his left and might be a major ingredient, or it might be an indication as to why “E.M. KNOWLES” gave two thumbs-up to virtually all of his test recipes.

    The investigation is on-going and open-ended.

  11. Abbey Nationalist says:

    I note that Blair/Orwell hyphenates road names – Digby-road, Castelnau-gardens etc. I thought that this practice died out in the 19th century. Does anyone know when the fashion changed, and why?

  12. Pingback: 3rdBlog from the….. » Blog Archive » Ephemeral Escalation

  13. Ed says:

    In regards to the Danish Recipe: “Pour the sour milk into fruit dishes about 12-18 hours before it is wanted….” I guess that would be 12-18 hours before hell has frozen over completely.

  14. Roving Thundercloud says:

    Actually the Latvian meal sounds fantastic.

  15. Roving Thundercloud says:

    Do you really think the “uses for sour milk” tag is going to produce anything, as more blog pages are added to the continuum?

    Is sour milk the same as buttermilk?

  16. SomeGuy says:

    Sour milk tastes a bit like buttermilk but it has a different consistency. You can make it yourself by getting some unpasteurized milk, adding a little yoghurt, and leaving it on the countertop for a little while. The milk will curdle but it will still be drinkable. If you want, you can strain it through a cheese-cloth and end up with a nice, white quark-style cheese. The clear liquid is also drinkable. My Dad used to love it.

    If you are going to try this, I’d let your immune system get used to it all by trying small doses. None of it smells in a way that is at all off-putting. It’s all good food. But your digestive tract may need to acclimatize a little since you’re starting with unpasteurized ingredients. If you’re French or Eastern European and used to raw cheese then you’re all set.

  17. Fay Shirley says:

    Abbey N. – the hyphens in road names are from the newspaper cutting. I haven’t noticed Orwell doing it. I can’t remember ever seeing hyphens being used like this, and I’ve been reading newspapers since the 50’s. Must have been an old-fashioned newspaper / or a very old cutting?

  18. Abbey Nationalist says:

    Thanks for clarifying that for me, Fay – yes, indeed, the hyphens are in newspaper cuttings. I think they must be rather old; if I recall correctly, the Times stopped hyphenating road names in the 1870s, but I don’t know why it was done in the first place, or why it changed.

  19. zenomax says:

    The investigation is on-going and open-ended.

    As are our investigations into the cavernous brain cavities of GO and JL3.

  20. Roving Thundercloud says:

    SomeGuy–thanks for the info. I’ll think it over!

  21. Barnaby says:

    I’ve just checked the tulips listed by Orwell in Dr D.G. Hessayon’s The Flower Expert (1989). Not a single one of these varieties gets a look in!

  22. Pingback: More Orwell Diaries « Meghan Dowling

  23. Karen says:

    Strictly speaking, buttermilk is the fluid left over from churning butter, although if you purchase “buttermilk” from the store it may just be ordinary milk with bacterial cultures added to mimic the taste.

    Sour milk is just ordinary milk that has turned. (The more time that has passed, the thicker sour milk becomes, probably due to evaporation.) However sour pasteurized milk has a very different bacterial composition from sour unpasteurized milk, and is highly unsafe. I strongly caution against anyone attempting these sour milk recipes unless they have access to unpasteurized milk.

  24. Karen says:

    Additionally, my understanding is the milk should begin souring at room temperature and then moved to the refrigerator. It doesn’t work right if you wait for it to turn in the refrigerator.

  25. Pingback: 8.6.39. « THE ORWELL PRIZE

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