Nairobi: The English Press Ltd., . First edition. Original yellow cloth binding with title to front board. Spine a bit sunned; boards generally soiled and corners bumped. Small stain to front pastedown. Spotting to fore-edge but surprisingly clean internally. 248 pages interspersed with local advertisements; two pages of handwritten recipes from a previous owner to the final leaf of the Notes section. A wartime scarcity, the present work was released as a fundraising effort: "The entire profits from the sale of this book will be given to Mount Kenya Hospital." A reference on the same page suggests that the book was compiled by women of the East African Women's League, per a reference on page 2; and as the imprint on a variant edition (dated 1950 by OCLC) further suggests the involvement of the Catholic Women's Mission. The only copy on the market, this community cookery is reported at only one institution according to OCLC.
The British Colony of Kenya became engaged in WWII at the same time as Great Britain, with a declaration of war in 1939. There were, at the time, also rumblings that Kenya would soon be moving toward decolonization and independence. Amid this instability and flux, women's groups played an important role, and "there was a rapid growth in the number of women's groups which were involved in self-help activities of a welfare of economic nature...the women's movement of the late colonial period was characterized by intensive training efforts of women leaders and the formation of women clubs which carried out homecrafts and home and community improvement activities" (Chitere). The East Africa Women's League was a central example of this activity. Founded in 1917, during the previous world war, the EAWL "decided that their membership should be confined to women, and that the organization's object should be 'to study and take action upon subjects of interest to women and children of the protectorate'" (Nicholls). Education, healthcare, and suffrage were key goals of the group; and the mission of this cook book to support the hospital during conflict aligns with the group's identity. Each recipe is contributed by a woman member of the club, her name and location recorded at the recipe's base. The organizers also recognize the importance of supporting local commerce; recipes use local ingredients, and the editors "request the readers' patronage for the advertisers whose announcements appear herein." Heavily English-influenced, the included recipes nevertheless reveal how women from across the globe were influencing each other's pallets and kitchens. Fish Chowder and Fish in Aspic reside alongside Hollandaises and Curries. Dates, Brains, Oranges, and Pineapples all make appearances. And, lest any reader forget about wartime shortages, numerous recipes exist with advice on cooking without eggs, flower, or butter. A scarce wartime cook book with larger political and social implications. (Item #2890)