And my plans are seldom the best laid. I had meant to spend the afternoon cooking something from any one of my previously unused Persephone cookbooks; unfortunately what actually happened was more like this – pulled the books off the shelf, started reading other blogs, found myself watching ‘come dine with me’ for hours, realised that I wanted to bake but nothing appealed in any of the books, watched some more ‘come dine with me’ and finally admitted a certain level of defeat.
Honestly I wasn’t trying very hard – the book I really wanted to use was Patience Gray and Primrose Boyd’s ‘Plats Du Jour’ but Patience and Primrose don’t do baking and the way the day panned out (slept in, large late breakfast, plenty of leftovers in the fridge and too much in the freezer to feel good about buying new things, pouring rain all day) well you can’t go wrong with a cake or a biscuit at a time like this. There’s a lot of information in ‘Plats Du Jour’ and all of its good. I really can’t understand why Elizabeth David is so well known in comparison to Patience and Primrose. ‘Plats Du Jour’ was far more popular when it first appeared than David’s books and with no disrespect to Elizabeth David I think there are good reasons for this.
There is something of the same didactic tone common to all of these women (you just wouldn’t argue) but ‘Plats Du Jour’ won my heart first with the chapter on wine – a mere 5 pages of good sound advice on buying, drinking, and food matching. Twelve years in the wine trade and I don’t think I’ve read anything better. (Particularly true of the advice regarding wine and heat – too much heat destroys wine, but 54 years after this book first hit the shelves we still have a habit of overheating our red wine in this country. Don’t do it people – wine should be room temperature and no more, and now I’ll dismount from this particular hobby horse.) I’m determined to cook from it one day, although in the meantime I can learn a lot about pots, pans and techniques. I’ve been reading ‘Plats Du Jour’ on and off all afternoon (in-between low rent television) and plan to take it to bed with me in a minute for more concentrated perusal.
Having rejected ‘Plats Du Jour’ for cooking purposes today I also hit Florence White’s ‘Good Things In England’ which has a lot more in the way of baking suggestions, but somehow nothing really appealed to me – or at least not to cook. Florence White herself sounds fascinating; after being blinded in one eye as a child her marriage prospects were blighted so she went out to work in a variety of roles (governess, teacher, ladies companion, cook, writer) by the 1920’s, by which time she was in her late 50’s/ early 60’s she was earning a living as a freelance food writer ‘Good Things in England’ came out when she was almost 70. It’s a collection of historic recipes which are fascinating to read about but which have bought me to the conclusion that real vintage cooking isn’t my passion. Reading vintage recipes is another matter it’s a whole fascinating part of history.
I hope, but don’t really know, if I’ll ever manage to cook anything from these books. For once it doesn’t really matter they’re great to read, give me a great deal of pleasure, and are something I would never have found without Persephone Books – how’s that for appreciation. I’m hoping that others will have written about these books this weekend and will be scouring Claire and Verity's round ups to see, if anyone’s cooked anything it might be just the push I need to be a bit more adventurous.