The Mystery Chef was the host of a popular radio cooking program in the ’30s and ’40s, and later had a cooking program on television as well. His name was John MacPherson, and according to his introduction in the book, he used the Mystery Chef pseudonym to protect his mother from the embarrassment of being known as the mother of a man who cooked for a hobby. She had come to terms with this hobby at that point, but wanted him to “keep it under his hat.”
He first took up cooking out of necessity; when the boarding house he was staying at served horrible meals, he moved to a flat and began learning to cook for himself. The book is fascinating, full of short stories, anecdotes and tips, which make it a great read.
I have a 1945 edition, which includes a Wartime Supplement with tips and suggestions to manage rationing. It starts by stating: “There is no way of writing recipes specially for wartime conditions owing to the changes in rationing. A sudden order from the armed forces may put an item on the ration list almost without notice. There are, however, ways to save ration points by substituting one ingredient which is unrationed for another which is rationed.”
His recipe for waffles, like the other recipes in his book, is pretty straightforward, calling for everyday ingredients, which is how I like my cookbooks. I’m not a fan of having to go shopping for all new ingredients every time I want to try a new recipe. The one thing I didn’t have for the waffles was fine cornmeal, so I used the standard, coarser cornmeal that was in my cupboard, and it worked out fine. The waffles were maybe a little grainy, but certainly nothing to complain about. I’d actually like to try them using corn flour in place of the cornmeal, since corn flour seems to make everything nice and crisp, but I didn’t have any, so went with the coarse cornmeal.
They mixed up quickly and easily, and were light, crisp, and delicious. I used both my Belgian and my Scandinavian waffle irons, and they were both great. For most waffles and with most toppings, the thin, crisp Scandinavian iron is my favourite, but hey, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with waffles, isn’t it? I suggest you go dig out that waffle iron that’s languishing in the back corner of your kitchen cupboard and try these for breakfast this weekend!
The Mystery Chef’s Own Cook Book was first copywrited in 1934. I used the 1945 edition. It was written by John MacPherson. Below are a couple of bonus recipes from the Wartime Supplement.