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Alan Bennett: Postscript, 19 February 2004

... condemnation of the BBC’s apology (and its abjectness) by its most distinguished broadcaster, David Attenborough. With a constituency that far outnumbers that of the Labour Party and a voice that is more respected and indeed loved than any politician’s can hope to be, if David Attenborough is on the other side, the ...

Snob Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Modern Snobbery, 3 November 2016

... choice that what we put on our tables can be taken as a personal statement and since most people cook for themselves, the host’s status hangs on the execution as well as the menu. An appearance of effortless sophistication is the middle-class ideal. Elizabeth David not only brightened postwar Britain with the flavours of ...

Hot Fudge

Jane Campbell, 19 October 1995

by Jane Smiley.
Flamingo, 414 pp., £15.99, May 1995, 9780002252355
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... Prize-winning novel A Thousand Acres, a transposition of King Lear to contemporary Iowa. Larry Cook is an ageing farmer who, by dint of hard work, canny management and lack of aversion to profiting from the misfortunes of others, has built up his farm to 1000 acres. ‘The seemingly stationary fields are always flowing toward one farmer and away from ...

Noovs’ hoovs in the trough

Angela Carter, 24 January 1985

The Official Foodie Handbook 
by Ann Barr and Paul Levy.
Ebury, 144 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 85223 348 5
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An Omelette and a Glass of Wine 
by Elizabeth David.
Hale, 318 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 7090 2047 3
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Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook 
by Alice Waters, foreword by Jane Grigson .
Chatto, 340 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 7011 2820 8
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... half-crust. (‘That bread alone was worth the journey,’ they probably remark, just as Elizabeth David says of a trip to an out-of-the-way eatery in France.) Art has a morality of its own, and the aesthetics of cooking and eating aspire, in ‘foodism’, towards the heights of food-for-food’s sake. Therefore the Third World can go suck its fist.The ...

Great Man

David Blackbourn: Humboldt, 16 June 2011

Nature’s Interpreter: The Life and Times of Alexander von Humboldt 
by Donald McCrory.
Lutterworth, 242 pp., £23, November 2010, 978 0 7188 9231 9
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... in Germany. He made friends with Georg Forster, who had sailed around the world with Captain Cook and written a bestseller about it. In 1790, they visited England together, where Humboldt looked at caves, took in Kew Gardens and met Joseph Banks. After further study in Hamburg, he enrolled in the School of Mining in Freiberg, where he devoured the ...

Wolfing it

Angela Carter, 23 July 1987

Honey from a Weed: Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades and Apulia 
by Patience Gray.
Prospect, 374 pp., £17.50, November 1986, 0 907325 30 0
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A Table in Provence: Classic Recipes from the South of France 
collected and illustrated by Leslie Forbes.
Webb and Bower/Joseph, 160 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 86350 130 3
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The Joyce of Cooking: Food and Drink from James Joyce’s Dublin 
by Alison Armstrong, foreword by Anthony Burgess.
Station Hill Press, 252 pp., $18.95, December 1986, 0 930794 85 0
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... a prototype of the late 20th-century British cookery book, a book to browse in as much as to cook from, its prose as elegant as its plentiful line-drawings. And, oh, that easy, graceful cosmopolitanism! ‘For anyone who has eaten a well-prepared Gulyas in one of the little restaurants on the Buda side of the Danube, overlooking the lantern-threaded ...

Seeing double

Patrick Hughes, 7 May 1987

The Arcimboldo Effect 
by Pontus Hulten.
Thames and Hudson, 402 pp., £32, May 1987, 0 500 27471 1
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... the visual pun which Arcimboldo also practised is the ‘upside-down’. There is one known as the Cook where two shiny platters are being parted to reveal some small cooked carcases – one way up: the other way up, the picture looks like a ruddy, shiny, gat-toothed cook in a wide-brimmed hat. Another one is the Vegetable ...

Sailing Scientist

Steven Shapin: Edmund Halley, 2 July 1998

Edmond Halley: Charting the Heavens and the Seas 
by Alan Cook.
Oxford, 540 pp., £29.50, December 1997, 0 19 850031 9
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... the same temperament that made him such excellent company and such a skilled social engineer. As David Brewster wrote in the 19th century, he ‘was a man of the world, much esteemed in society’. He seems to have been one of those who would rather lose a job than a joke. He told one scientific colleague who declined to drink with him on a Friday that he ...

Sinking Giggling into the Sea

Jonathan Coe: Giggling along with Boris, 18 July 2013

The Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson 
edited by Harry Mount.
Bloomsbury, 149 pp., £9.99, June 2013, 978 1 4081 8352 6
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... of every sketch was people dying.’ Nonetheless, it was undoubtedly a strong influence on Peter Cook (one of the original cast members) and the other three-quarters of the Beyond the Fringe team (Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore), who would go on to present their own take on the nuclear threat, in a sketch called ‘Civil War’.In that ...

The Only Way

Sam Kinchin-Smith: Culinary Mansplaining, 4 January 2018

... I wondered if the whole thing was an elaborate joke I’d missed. Meades’s take on an Elizabeth David recipe for sauce au vin du Médoc, which David credited to ‘Madame Bernard, the wife of a wine-grower of Cissac-Médoc’ (Meades wonders whether David ‘emulated [the] deadpan ...

Perpetual Sunshine

David Cannadine, 2 July 1981

The Gentleman’s Country House and its Plan, 1835-1914 
by Jill Franklin.
Routledge, 279 pp., £15.95, February 1981, 0 7100 0622 5
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... a brewhouse and a coalhouse, the housekeeper supervised the stillroom and the laundry, and the cook controlled the kitchen, the scullery and the larders. The climax of this expansion was reached at Kinmel in 1870: a room was built in the servants’ wing in which the daily newspaper was ironed! Not surprisingly, the greatest mid-Victorian houses mopped up ...


David Story: On Being a Twin, 5 April 1984

... And Shakespeare seems to endow Ephesus with double identities wherever possible. Adriana’s cook is called both Nell and Luce; the abbey is a sanctuary, but just behind it lies ‘the place of death and sorry execution’; the currency is of three sorts – guilders, marks and ducats; the courtesan with whom Antipholus of Ephesus intends simply to dine ...


David Runciman: Blair’s conference speech, 21 October 2004

... to make real progress (more progress than Blair has achieved, for all his big talk). Robin Cook’s careful, persistent unpicking of the government’s Iraq policy also offers a way out of the Manichean nightmare of the war on terror. Of course, a Labour government led by Brown, with Cook as foreign secretary, would ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Silly mistakes and blood for Bush, 4 December 2003

... themselves, and anxious about an imminent German invasion or an attack by the IRA. Mrs Welch, the cook, forbids her girls from speaking to tradesmen on prevention of terrorism grounds, though it turns out that her real motive is safeguarding the secret of her illicit gin supply. Charley Raunce, the former head footman recently promoted to butler, continues ...

Out of this World

David Armitage, 16 November 1995

by Thomas More, edited by George Logan, Robert M. Adams and Clarence Miller.
Cambridge, 290 pp., £55, February 1995, 0 521 40318 9
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Utopias of the British Enlightenment 
edited by Gregory Claeys.
Cambridge, 305 pp., £35, July 1994, 0 521 43084 4
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... is, in every sense, unapproachable and, for the present, inimitable. More might have approved David Hume’s epitaph on utopianism: ‘All plans of government, which suppose great reformation in the manners of mankind, are plainly imaginary. Of this nature, are the Republic of Plato and the Utopia of Sir Thomas More.’ However, for More this would have ...

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