24 October 2009

Darling, You Shouldn’t Have Gone To So Much Trouble

People write books for many reasons. Darling, You Shouldn’t Have Gone To So Much Trouble by Caroline Blackwood and Anna Haycraft came into being after a tragedy. Blackwood lost her seventeen-year-old daughter to a drug overdose. Actually, the girl ran a bath and was preparing the heroin, but she was drunk, passed out, and fell into the tub and drowned.

Anna Haycraft understood Blackwood’s pain, having lost two children herself. Being a writer, (Haycraft is better known by her pen name, Alice Thomas Ellis) Haycraft devised a project to get Blackwood working. They would call upon their numerous literary and famous friends and ask them for recipes that anyone might cook.

Of the modern 1980’s woman they write:
“If she entertains she want to be free to drink and talk to her friends without worrying whether the dinner she is about to produce will be a catastrophe.”
Given Blackwood's alcoholism, she clearly wanted to be "free to drink" and really didn't care too much about the food. Their motley and arty crew of friends included the likes of Sonia Orwell, Quentin Crisp, Lucian Freud, Nicky Haslam, and Marianne Faithful to name a few. It is rakish list for a cookbook and the recipes are delightful.

Lucian Freud’s Tomato Soup au Naturel

Fresh tomatoes
Country Butter
Clotted cream
Bay leaf

My recipe is not right for this book. I once took only the very purest ingredients. I first fried the tomatoes very slowly. Then I simmered them very slowly, stirring all the time. The whole thing took hours. When I tasted it I realized I had re-invented Heinz Tomato soup.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s English Afternoon Tea

Take a loaf of very good unsliced bread; butter with sweet butter; cut a thin slice with a very sharp knife; repeat.

Needless to say, some people failed to understand the witty elements of the book nor did they find the cookbook to be that informative. Clearly, the recipes were to be taken with – a bit of salt. The esteemed novelist Anita Brookner who did not agree with lighthearted nature of the book, was chosen to write a review. She stated rather emphatically:
“This is corrupt food…People should not eat bad food to save time, particularly bad food which is rather expensive”
The review caused Blackwood to send a scathing letter to Brookner. The controversy pushed the book into several printings. Clearly if one is looking for a balanced and nutritious menu the first people to come to mind are not Marianne Faithful nor Quentin Crisp. Clearly, Anita Brookner went to, far too much trouble.

While we might not advocate cooking all the recipes, they are a delight to read. For more on Caroline Blackwood, check out the post at Lucindaville.

1 comment:

  1. oh oh- here we go again. Please post more receipts for my cookery files from THIS book. la


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