17 April 2015

Friday's Literary Feast

Quotes from The Virago Book of Food:  The Joy of Eating

1853 - 1920

Peas were introduced into England from Holland in the time of Elizabeth, and were then considered a great delicacy.  History tells us that when the Queen was released from her confinement in the tower, May 19, 1554, she went to Staining to perform her devotions in the church of Allhallows, after which she dined at a neighbouring inn upon a meal of which the principal dish was boiled peas.  A dinner of the same kind, commemorative of the event, was for a long time given annually at the same tavern.

Science in the Kitchen

10 April 2015

Friday's Literary Feast

Quotes from The Virago Book of Food:  The Joy of Eating


'Around half past twelve there was a great clattering outside in the corridor and a smiling, dimpled woman slid back their door and said, 'Anything off the trolley, dears?'
  Harry, who hadn't had any breakfast, leapt to his feet, but Ron's ears went pink again and he muttered that he'd brought sandwiches.  Harry went out into the corridor.
  He had never had any money for sweets with the Dursleys, and now that he had pockets rattling with gold and silver he was ready to buy as many Mars Bars as he could carry - but the woman didn't have Mars Bars.  What she did have were Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, Drooble's Best Blowing Gum, Chocolate Frogs, Pumpkin Pasties, Cauldron Cakes, Liquorice Wands, and a number of other strange things Harry had never seen in his life.  Not wanting to miss anything, he got some of everything and paid the woman eleven silver Sickles and seven bronze Knuts.'

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

8 April 2015

Making Conversation by Christine Longford

Published in 1931, Making Conversation follows Martha Freke through her later childhood years prior to World War I and subsequent entry into Oxford with a scholarship.  But let's not get too far ahead...

Curly-haired Martha and her etiquette-aware mother live in a house called Hillview.  They earn an income by taking in paying guests from near and far with various political stances.

'Hillview was a square house with six bedrooms, one bathroom, a dining-room, and a smoking-room where no one smoked.  When there were male visitors, they smoked, according to the advanced custom of the period, in the drawing-room'.

Martha's father, Major Freke, hasn't been in the picture for quite some time after writing 'too many cheques'.  Mother and daughter do have a constant resident though in Miss Pilkington who applied to an ever so slightly embellished advertisement.  Martha is in no danger of being short on advice with several women offering advice on how to navigate through life's obstacles as exhibited by her teacher, Miss Spencer...

  '"Now, I want to tell you that you are in danger of becoming a very unhappy little girl.  Owing to unfortunate circumstances, you are brought up for the most part among grown-up people, and you are losing your childhood."'  "Yes, Miss Spencer."  Martha was beginning to feel tearful from self-pity.  "You are lacking in community spirit.  The best means of counteracting your mode of life would be net-ball.  Tell your mother that one day you will regret the opportunities you have missed."'

If you're in the mood for it, there is nothing quite so entertaining as the observations of a young girl.  Written prior to the days of political correctness there are many instances of racial and religious stereotyping but I must confess to laughing out loud a few times.  I think mostly due to the absurdity of writing such things for publication, as in making cocoa the same colour as an Indian guest's skin.  If you are quite at home with the writings of Nancy Mitford you know what I mean.

Christine Longford began this novel during the summer of 1930, echoing various episodes in her young life so it's quite autobiographical.  The time Martha spends at Oxford is entertaining but also filled with more thoughts on Greek classics and psychology than I could absorb so at times I felt out of the loop.  The moments I thoroughly relished were the ones filled with humour and domesticity.

'She was making for a plate of scrambled eggs, when a hand was pressed on her shoulder.  It was Miss Stubbs, who said, "Don't!  They are not what they seem!"  "Oh, really?"  "No, they are Farm Eggs, which means Egg Powder, which means Custard Powder, which mean Custard Pudding."  The thought of custard pudding can curdle one's blood at ten minutes past eight in the morning...'

The book ends all too soon, just as Martha is coming into her own.  Perhaps it's a bit dramatic to compare that statement with Longford's life once she married but reading Rachel Billington's preface it would appear so.

While this book, No. 83 in the Persephone line-up, isn't quite a shining star it was definitely more fun than I was expecting.  And the endpapers are lovely.

3 April 2015

Friday's Literary Feast

Quotes from The Virago Book of Food:  The Joy of Eating

1932 - 2005

Aunt Irene really inclined to that simplest of all views:  the one expressed so cogently in the book of Genesis, which explained everything with appealing clarity.  This was the only view that explained, for instance, mayonnaise.  It was patently absurd to suppose that mayonnaise had come about through random chance, that anyone could even have been silly or brilliant enough to predict what would happen if he slowly trickled oil on to egg yolks and then gone ahead and tried it.  An angel must have divulged that recipe and then explained what to do with the left-over whites.  Meringues - there was another instance of the exercise of superhuman intelligence.  To Aunt Irene the Ten Commandments seemed almost insignificant compared with the astonishing miracle of what you could do with an egg.  As the angel had left his fiery chariot he must have added, 'And don't forget omelettes, and cake and custard and souffl├ęs and poaching and frying and boiling and baking.  Oh, and they're frightfully good with anchovies.  And you can use the shells to clarify soup - and don't forget to dig them in round the roots of your roses', the angelic tones fading into the ethereal distance.

The 27th Kingdom

Happy Easter!