Lewes book fair: a guide for cooks

On Saturday I read illustrator Neil Gower’s tweet that ‘the air in Lewes Town Hall is thick with the fumes of bacon butties, books and batchelorhood,’ and wasted no time in scurrying along to the Paws and Claws Book Fair. I love vintage cookbooks – see my posts about Be-ro, Barbara Bäeta and James Stevens Cox – so I went with the hope of grabbing a few curiosities to add to my collection. I couldn’t resist buying a few beautiful handmade notebooks with marbled covers (a snip at £2.50 each), but as a measure against growing a hoard so large it becomes a health hazard, I chose to take photographs of, rather than buy most of the books that caught my eye. Here is a guide to some of my more interesting foody finds.

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The ‘skeptic’s skeptic’ Marcelo Truzzi was a sociology professor and founding co-chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation for Claims of the Paranormal. I spotted a copy of his 1969 book Caldron cookery: An authentic guide for coven connoisseurs on the first stand I stopped at and was taken by the amusing illustrations by Victoria Chess.

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I wish I’d taken better note of Calendar Cookery, the little green book at the back. As I recall it is a title offering advice on seasonal cooking dating back to WW2. I’m also gutted that I didn’t snaffle this copy of the wonderfully designed The Savoy Cocktail Book, which Maria Popova has featured on her blog Brain Pickings. Gah!

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In this photo you can just about see Cold Cookery, a helpful booklet from the fifties (I think) about how to use your fridge, and the nicely titled 120 Ways of Using Bread from 1934. This little book actually contains 127 ‘ways with bread’, I found some neat little illustrated posts about it here and here.

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From bread to eggs, in the form of another useful guide entitled 100 Ways of Cooking Eggs by Alexander Filippini. It was published in 1892, a time when the food you ate was the food that was farmed near you. Also on this stand was a copy of Three Courses and A Dessert with some incredible illustrations by George Cruikshank and a pocket-sized Delhi YWCA International Cook Book.

Incidentally, Alexander Filippini also wrote an International Cook Book. He was Travelling Inspector of the International Mercantile Marine Company and would have had the privilege of sampling a great many exotic foods, not just eggs. I imagine, however, that eggs would have featured quite heavily in his diet during times spent at sea. You can read digitised extracts of Filippini’s International Cook Book online here.

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This is a copy of The Art of Dining that was given to the editor, publisher and literary agent William Miller during his time at Oxford. It looks to be quite a comprehensive guide, including an intriguing chapter on ‘The Comparative Merits of Male and Female Cooks’. Miller’s nephew who owns this stall was very obliging, he told me that Miller was ‘quite a gourmand… he must have spent a king’s ransom on dining, my uncle.’

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And that brings me to the stall that ate my cash. I couldn’t resist buying this copy of Katherine Whitehorn’s Kitchen In The Corner with a bright yellow jacket by Josef Gross. The book, published in 1961 is billed as ‘a complete guide to bedsitter cookery,’ and it strikes me as being both of its time and of the now, but that is a post to save for another day.

The Paws and Claws Book Fair is held in Lewes five times a year and comprises about forty stalls of secondhand and antiquarian books. Entry is 50p to look around, they also sell bacon baps.

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About Chloe King

I'm a freelance writer, designer and webby type. I live with my husband and daughter in the south of England. I like to cook and can throw a good party.

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