Autumn with it's mists and mellow fruitfulness (though sadly this year it's more fruitless than otherwise) is when the lure of the kitchen really kicks back in, that there are so many tempting new cookbooks on the market is only further encouragement. My favourite new book of the season so far is Diana Henry's 'Salt Sugar Smoke' that I first wrote about last week. After that post Diana sent me an email - it was one of those rare occasions that feels like a daydream come true; she asked if I would like to come to afternoon tea at her house with about a dozen other bloggers. Would I? Yes indeed I would.
'Salt Sugar Smoke' is brilliant, Diana Henry is the sort of writer I love to read, her books are full of possibilities that go far beyond cooking; food is such a vivid way into other peoples lives and way of life. Books by chefs are all well and good but they are generally more concerned with the mechanics of cooking - I'm interested in the technical stuff, but it doesn't always feed the imagination in the same way that the likes of Claudia Roden and Jane Grigson do when they include all those bits of history, legend, and anecdote. I discovered those two at about the same time - my copies of their books are battered penguin paperbacks that I used to read on the bus. Before that it wouldn't have occurred to me that you could read recipes for fun. For me Diana Henry is very much in this tradition - I have no higher praise to bestow - she really is that good.
It could then have been terrifying to go to her house - I'm not good at meeting new people, especially ones I admire. I'm not to worried about saying anything stupid so much as being able to talk at all. Happily Diana was amazingly welcoming, I still can't quite believe she was willing to turn her kitchen over to a dozen bloggers, but she did and it was a treat. Food bloggers are a slightly different tribe to book bloggers - mostly they have better cameras and aren't afraid to use them. Everything was very well documented before it was eaten which felt mildly surreal from my point of view and makes me wonder if there's an etiquette to this kind of thing along the lines of kissing someone's cheek on greeting?
I should probably have taken more pictures myself except that I was mesmerised not so much by the food as the books - hundreds of wonderful books, many of them in reassuring piles on chairs and the floor (just like mine) I could have spent hours browsing the titles looking to spot familiar spines. It was a wonderful collection - and apparently only the half of it - I have serious book envy.
The food was excellent, a selection of things from the book which has confirmed my desire to make the fig and pomegranate jam without delay as well as to acquire a suitable bit of salmon to turn into gravlax. Whilst in London I managed to pick up some Quinces as well - they've proved even more elusive than usual here in Leicester - so I also have the very agreeable prospect of deciding what to do with them, it's a bit of a toss up between jelly or a liquor at the moment. Altogether it was a fun and very inspiring afternoon - definitely a privilege to have taken part in, and you can probably guess what most people will be getting from me for Christmas this year.