I am sitting staring at a white page, feeling sullen and void of intelligent thought when the postman lays a package just inside the open door. I recognise the handwriting straight away, it’s from Steve, my boss from a few years back. Steve used to own a bar on Lordship Lane in East Dulwich called Inside 72 which was more like an underground New York City dive. My friends and I treated it like a home from home. We wrote all over the walls and the windows and drank ourselves silly, the air thick with smoke and our ears full of Television, Steely Dan, When The Levee Breaks. The sheen on this parcel reminds me of the walls in the bar that were spray painted gold on red.
Inside the parcel are these two books, It Must’ve Been Something I Ate by Jeffrey Steingarten and A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain. They are both classics that I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read, so thank you Steve for yet again sparing me from some of my ignorance and for cheering me up on what began as a bit of a bad day. When I thanked him Steve said, “I remember reading them both at the same time when I was in Florida years ago. I saw Bourdain in the Mind shop and thought of you.” And I’m very glad he did too!
Steve’s surprise gift made me realise how many brilliant books about food I have been given from some of those closest to me since I started this blog. My aunt Kate, who I will be visiting at her home in Nairn this August sent me South Wind Through The Kitchen, a lovely collection of Elizabeth David recipes to tide me over until I can have a peek at my grandmother’s editions at her place.
This copy of Schott’s Food & Drink Miscellany arrived in the post a week or two ago and I still haven’t worked out who sent it to me! A huge thank you to whoever that was because this is a very useful little book indeed, and beautifully typeset, which is important too.
My friend Priya picked up this giant volume of recipes in a secondhand shop some years ago but she hasn’t cooked from it, so she gave it to me in the hope that I will make better use of it. It really is so generous of Priya as this book, published by Herbert Joseph for Selfridge & Co in 1935, contains 800 pages of recipes from all over the world. It was compiled and edited by the authoritatively named Countess Morphy, said to be a pseudonym of Marcelle Azra Forbes; yet another female cookery writer who was prolific in her day, but about whom very little seems to have been written.
And that brings me to this unusual volume of recipes lent to me by my friend Erin. From The Crocodiles is a collection of recipes published by the International Women’s Club in Kaduna, Nigeria in October 1981. It contains a whole range of useful info, from recipes for children’s play dough and face paint, to West African ‘specialities’ and family friendly dishes from other parts of world. The introduction by J Kenke explains that, “contributors to the book are the sort who collect cookbooks like novels and leave your dinner party thanking you for a handwritten copy of what you just served.”
I love this sentiment because I too am one of those people. It kind of echoes how I feel about food – nothing revelatory – but that it is a pleasure, a necessity, and something generous: something to be shared. I also have a tendency to associate foods with people I know, and I enjoy the fact that all of these different books seem to say a lot about the personalities of the friends who gave them to me.
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