19 March 2010

Grace at Charleston

For more than fifty years, Grace Higgens worked at Charleston. She began as a housemaid for Vanessa Bell in 1920 and soon became angelica Bell's nursemaid. By 1935 she was housekeeper and cook. While she finally had enough money to purchase her parents house in 1959, she remained at Charleston with Vanessa Bell and then Duncan Grant. A collection of her recipes form a small booklet entitled Grace at Charleston.

Interior with Housemaid by Vanessa Bell, 1939

Higgens traveled frequently to France with the Bell's and it was there that she began to shine as a cook. Even Virginia Woolf once tried to steal her away from Vanessa. Alison Light wrote a wonderful book about domestic life in Bloomsbury entitled, Mrs. Woolf and the Servants. Check out the post over at Lucindaville.

Grace Higgens' recipes are simple and straightforward. steamed fish, chops and sausages and a sweet here and there. Here are just a couple.

Eggs Chasseur

Fry two or three chicken livers in butter with a dozen sliced mushrooms and a small piece of chopped shallot, salt and pepper. When the mixture has been well fried, set it round four eggs which have been well cooked, on an egg dish and serve it in the same dish.

Sausages in Sweet and Sour Sauce

1lb Pork sausages fried well. Add celery, onions, apples and carrots cut into pieces. cook slowly until soft, add 2 teaspoons cornflour, 2 teaspoons Worcester sauce and 1/2 pint stock.

Grace at Charleston, though small, is the closest thing to a Bloomsbury cookbook there is, an I find it to be a treasure.

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