29 March 2016

The Amateur Cook

The Amateur Cook by Katharine Burrill and Annie M. Booth is one of the most beautiful cookbooks out there.  It is illustrated with drawing by the famed children's book illustrator, Mable Attwell, which adds to its collectability.  The book is this strange amalgam of story, recipes, and illustrations that lend it to being often described as a children's book.

Published in 1905, it was perhaps meant to telegraph such feelings.  Burrill authored a collection of essays for young girls with good breeding entitled Corner Stones.  Booth wrote a cookbook, Simple Cookery.  Combined with drawings by Attwell, that might be a foregone conclusion. However, the illustrations seem to be of mostly grown-ups, the dedication of the book is for famed Shakespearean actress Ellen Terry. The recipes run the gamut from creamed rabbit to surprising sweetbreads, a cold preparation of ox brains with whipped cream and yellow and green aspic, so they are not terrible child friendly, nor some might say adult friendly!

Before the actual recipes begin, there are several chapters telling a story about women who can't cook and how they set out to be women who can cook. It is very odd. Every so often, within the recipes, the charters from the story make an appearance:

Edinburgh Fog

Take half pint of cream, mix with a little pounded sugar, and switch to a thick froth.  Mix in a good handful of ratafia biscuits and chopped, blanched sweet almonds with the cream,  Flavor with vanilla and pile up in a crystal dish.

'That last dish, Delecta, sounds rather like the "little Cupids" sopped in brandy that Miss Barker gave the ladies in Cranford.'

Delecta looks perfectly blank.  Her whole soul is set on cooking, and she brooks not interruption. I hasten to say, 'Never mind.' So she reads out the recipes for a pale-green luncheon.

Cranford was a very popular 19th century novel by Elizabeth Gaskell.

If you are a cookbook collector, this is one to seek out. It is becoming quite rare and a tad expensive.  But ask yourself, where else will you find an illustrated, novella, cookbook dedicated to a Shakespearean actress.

17 March 2016

Notes From The Larder

Let's start with this. Nigel Slater is a fine writer. Many a cookbook suffers from lousy writers. Slater is a cook, not a chef, a point he is quick to make.  He gives you straight forward recipes, not always measured out to the gram.  He tells you if something failed and how he corrected the problem.

Notes From The Larder is a rare case where the American version is nicer than the the British version. In England the book was called Kitchen Diaries II and bore a black and white image of Slater. Perhaps the title change was to try and underplay the idea that it was, indeed, a diary.  Now I love a good diary design, but it is a deal breaker for many. I think some people dislike diary entries because they simply cannot face the face that there is no way in the wold they could keep it up for an entire year or two.  It does seem daunting, I mean, I love to talk about food every day, but keeping track of it in great detail, I too am a bit miffed that Slater is so good at it. 

Really, though, I am happy that Slater is so good at it. He is frank, funny, and his love of food pour out onto the pages. I suppose they also poured out in his "Simple" series of cooking shows that were wildly successful on the BBC. (Alas, we never saw them here in the states, but with all these cooking channels, it would seem that someone would buy them and air them in the wee hours of the morning!)

Here is a recipe from last weeks diary entry.  As you can see, they are diary entries, though not every day is represented. The recipes are a bit more conversational and friendly, rather than listed and mandated. The book has the feel of a early 19th century cookbook rather than the formal, restaurant tome we have grown used to.

Surf and turf

One of the most successful recipes to come out of the “Surf and Turf” program in the Simple Cooking series on BBC1 was the fillets of trout baked with Parma ham. The feedback was heartwarming. Today I make a similar dish with salmon and bacon,mostly because that is what I have brought back from the shops. My bacon is on the thick side, so I stretch the slices out by pressing them down on a chopping board with the flat side of a knife blade before wrapping the salmon in them.

Bacon-wrapped salmon

salmon: two 9-ounce (250g)
steaks or fillets
thinly cut bacon: 4 slices
lemon thyme: a couple of sprigs
a little oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Season the fish with black pepper and a very little salt. Wrap each piece in 2 slices of bacon, tucking a sprig of thyme under the bacon. Brush with a little oil and bake for fifteen to twenty minutes, till the fish is cooked through.

For my money, Notes From The Larder has a feel I would like see in more cookbooks, and not just the ones by Slater.

02 March 2016

The Duchess of Devonshire's Cookbooks

 If you follow our site, Lucindaville, you will know that we are big fans of the Mitford Sisters.  One of our early posts on Cookbook Of The Day was the Duchess of Devonshire's Chatsworth Cookery Book.  While many famous folk produce ghost-written cookbooks and then claim them to be their own, the Duchess was very upfront in her book that she didn't really cook, but she had eaten most of the dishes.

Today, Sotheby's held an auction entitled: Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire: The Last of the Mitford Sisters. Among the items were her cookbooks.  The original estimate for over 40 books was 300 -500 pounds. Has anyone at Sotheby's purchased cookbooks recently?  Needless to say, the lot sold for 3125.
A COLLECTION OF COOKERY BOOKS, 1875-2011, including:

Cooke, M.C. British Edible Funghi. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1891, 12 colour plates, library stamp to title, frontispiece and list of plates loose, worn at head and foot of spine) 

Beeton, Isabella. Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management. Ward, Lock & Co., 1907, 30 colour plates, later dark red backed green boards, lettered in gilt on spine)

Boulestin, X. Marcel and Jason Hill. Herbs, Salads and Seasonings. Heinemann, 1930, number 23 of the edition of 75 copies signed by both authors, spine faded)

Heath, Ambrose. The Country Life Cookery Book. Country Life Limited, 1937, wood engravings by Eric Ravilious, boards rubbed)

Maclean, Veronica. Lady Maclean's Diplomatic Dishes. Collins, 1975, inscribed by the author, head of spine worn with loss)

Parker Bowles, Tom. E is for Eating. Long Barn, 2004, inscribed by the author and the illustrator, dust-jacket)

Green, Rachel. Chatsworth Cookery Book. Green Shoots, 2007, inscribed by the author.

An additional 32 others, of which 6 inscribed to Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, mostly original cloth and wrappers, many with the Duchess's bookplate, some wear to dust-jackets.

What do we most covet from the list?  Ambrose Heath's The Country Life Cookery Book.

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