Sunday, 9 August 2015

She doesn't really like fruit at all

'I'm beginning to wonder if I wasn't a bit impetuous offering him the job just like that. But then that's what I'm like – you ask Mother. One day I bought six pomegranates on the way home – imagine it, six! We didn't know what to do with them. Of course Mother doesn't like anything with seeds, or anything foreign, come to that. She doesn't really like fruit at all.'
An Unsuitable Attachment (1963/1982)
Barbara Pym

I wrote a little about why I love Barbara Pym here.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

why, he was gelatined too

Side by side, they looked at Mme. Tussaud's own modelling of Marie Antoinette's severed head fresh from the basket; they listened to somebody's cook beside them, reading from her catalogue: "Mary Antonette, gelatined in 1792; Lewis sixteen, – why, he was gelatined too"...
Seducers in Ecuador (1924)
Vita Sackville-West

A wonderful novella - very, very odd.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

a friendship that was a shrine to food

For another thing, Thelma Rice really didn't care about food – that was clear from her gluey puddings – while the four of us had a friendship that was a shrine to food. We had driven miles to find the world's creamiest cheesecake and the world's largest pistachio nut and the world's sweetest corn on the cob. We had spent hours in blind taste testings of kosher hot dogs and double chocolate chip ice cream. When Julie went home to Fort Worth, she flew back with spareribs from Angelo's Beef Bar-B-Q, and when I went to New York, I flew back with smoked butterfish from Russ and Daughters. Once, in New Orleans, we all went to Mosca's for dinner, and we ate marinated crab, baked oysters, barbecued shrimp, spaghetti bordelaise, chicken with garlic, sausage with potatoes, and on the way back to town, a dozen oysters each at the Acme and beignets and coffee with chicory on the wharf. Then Arthur said, 'Let's go to Chez Helene for the bread pudding,' and we did, and we each had two. The owner of Chez Helene gave us the bread pudding recipe when we left, and I'm going to throw it in because it's the best bread pudding I've ever eaten. It tastes like caramelized mush.
Cream 2 cups sugar with 2 sticks butter. Then add 2½ cups milk, one 13-ounce can evaporated milk, 2 tablespoons nutmeg, 2 tablespoons vanilla, a loaf of wet bread in chunks and pieces (any bread will do, the worse the better) and 1 cup raisins. Stir to mix. Pour into a deep greased casserole and bake at 350° for 2 hours, stirring after the first hour. Serve warm with hard sauce.
Nora Ephron (1983)

I think Heartburn was the first book where my kindle refused to save any more 'clippings': my review. A wonderful book about food and love and other disasters. "Would anyone love me if I couldn’t cook?"

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

a restaurant for women only

It was an innovation, a restaurant for women only. Although dining for upper- and middle-class women was already available at the various women's clubs, and although some conventional restaurants provided ladies' dining rooms discreetly located in upper storeys or side-rooms, Dorothy's was a bold modern proposition. Its door was right on the street, and it was open to all classes of women, from shop assistants to duchesses. Offering cheap wholesome fare for all, Dorothy's liberated the former from having to eat a bun in a shop and offered the latter a new kind of experience. You just bought an eightpenny dining ticket on entrance, took a seat at one of the tables and waited for your 'plate of meat, two vegetables and bread' to arrive. For an extra couple of pence you could also get pudding, and for a further penny tea, coffee or chocolate. Dorothy's was a perfect example of how, in late Victorian London, Aestheticism, liberalism and feminist sympathies could collide. The first branch of the restaurant to open, in Mortimer Street, had cream-coloured walls with 'aesthetic crimson dados' and had been made 'gay with Japanese fans and umbrellas'. The Oxford Street branch, which opened just months later, was a far more dramatic proposition, its windows hung with rich Indian curtains, its ante-room painted a deep red that offset luxurious couches, small tables and carefully selected ornaments, and its larger luncheon room featuring rows of simple tables set with glazed white cotton tablecloths surmounted by vases of fresh flowers.
Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde
Franny Moyle (2011)

A really very good biography of Constance Wilde, who led an interesting as well as tragic life. On The Dorothy Restaurant, see here.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Emotion is extremely exhausting, and Emma makes very nice fish-cakes

She went on telling Miss Silver everything she knew. It gave her the most extraordinary sense of relief. When she had finished she felt weak, and empty, and quiet.
Miss Silver coughed in a very kind manner and said briskly, 'And now, my dear, we will have some breakfast. Emma will have it ready for us. Fish-cakes – and do you prefer tea or coffee?'
'Oh, Miss Silver, I couldn't!'
Miss Silver was putting the knitting away in a flowered chintz bag. She said with great firmness, 'Indeed you can, my dear. And you will feel a great deal better when you have had something to eat. Emotion is extremely exhausting, and Emma makes very nice fish-cakes. And perhaps you would like to wash your face.'
Ivory Dagger (1953)
Patricia Wentworth

Note: I love Miss Silver - the knitting, the cough*, the spinster saved from poverty by her own wits. This is quite a weak entry in the Miss Silver canon, mostly because the heroine-victim (not the young lady above) is all pale and spineless and totally without the spirit to rescue herself. 

* From the preface to Catherine Wheel: "To those readers who have so kindly concerned themselves about Miss Silver’s health. Her occasional slight cough is merely a means of self-expression. It does not indicate any bronchial affection. She enjoys excellent health. P.W."

Saturday, 18 April 2015

it was 'better' to be eating - it gave one something to do

The organization where Letty and Marcia worked regarded it as a duty to provide some kind of a retirement party for them, when the time came for them to give up working. Their status as ageing unskilled women did not entitle them to an evening party, but it was felt that a lunchtime gathering, leading only to more than usual drowsiness in the afternoon, would be entirely appropriate. The other advantage of a lunchtime party was that only medium Cyprus sherry need be provided, whereas the evening called for more exotic and expensive drinks, wines and even the occasional carefully concealed bottle of whisky or gin – 'the hard stuff', as Norman called it, in his bitterness at being denied access to it. Also at lunchtime sandwiches could be eaten, so that there was no need to have lunch and it was felt by some that at a time like this it was 'better' to be eating – it gave one something to do.
Barbara Pym
Quartet in Autumn (1977)

I wrote a little about why I liked this book a lot here.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Livers of fat geese. There's a pie!

"Now, look here!" he said. "In this paper," which was nicely folded, "is a piece of the best plum-cake that can be got for money — sugar on the outside an inch thick, like fat on mutton chops. Here's a little pie (a gem this is, both for size and quality), made in France. And what do you suppose it's made of? Livers of fat geese. There's a pie! Now let's see you eat 'em." 
"Thank you, sir," I replied; "thank you very much indeed, but I hope you won't be offended — they are too rich for me." 
"Floored again!" said the gentleman, which I didn't at all understand, and threw them both out of window.
Bleak House (1853) 
Charles Dickens

Monday, 9 February 2015

the inordinate appetite of all poor relations

Lord Lionel being an advocate of what he considered a neat, plain dinner, only two courses were served at Sale Park when the family dined alone. The first of these consisted of a tureen of turtle, removed with fish, which was in its turn removed with a haunch of venison. Several side-dishes, such as pork cutlets with Rober sauce, larded fillets of beef, tenderones of veal and truffles, and a braised ham, graced the board, but since his lordship was a moderate trencherman, and the Duke had a notoriously small appetite, the only person who did justice to the spread was Miss Scamblesby, who had (so his lordship had more than once remarked to his nephew) the inordinate appetite of all poor relations.
Georgette Heyer 
The Foundling (1948)

Not a particularly memorable Heyer, but the food sounds good. Maybe skip the turtle (fascinating article here)? On Rober Sauce: 

(A Complete System of Cookery, on a Plan Entirely New, Consisting of Every Thing that is Requisite for Cooks to Know in the Kitchen Business: Containing Bills of Fare for Every Day in the Year, and Directions to Dress Each Dish; Being One Year's Work at the Marquis of Buckingham's from the 1st of January to the 31st of December, 1805 by John Simpson, via googlebooks)

The same book gives a recipe for "tenderones of veal": 


Monday, 26 January 2015

tens of thousands of Aussie pies

For the first half of the 1900s only fish and chips challenged the pie as the natural choice for Australians bent on instant gratification of their hunger pangs. In fact, when they opened Parliament House in Canberra in 1926 the organisers decided to feed the multitudes with tens of thousands of Aussie pies. Unfortunately, they grossly over-estimated the number of visitors who would flock to the heart of new democracy. The great earth movers employed to lay the foundations of Parliament House had to be revved up again to bury thousands of left-over pies. The place of burial is said to be beneath the present Treasury Building so in more ways than one the great Aussie pie lies at the foundation of the country's economic health.
Robert Macklin (2012)
The Great Australian Pie: a history and culinary adventure

I discussed this book here.
See also the Guardian on the Australian pie.

Happy Australia Day!

Monday, 19 January 2015

slipping off a piece of toast

Her Serene Highness made one of her characteristic exits, which Lady Caroline declared always reminded her of a scrambled egg slipping off a piece of toast.
'Saki' (H. H. Munro)
The Unbearable Bassington (1912)

I can't believe I've never reviewed any Saki. 
Wonderful short stories ('Tobermory', the talking cat!) 
and this rather odd novel (also here). 
See reviews by desperate reader, stuck in a book
& i prefer reading.

Poor Saki.

Really wikipedia does not do him justice...