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."