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Rosemary Hill: ‘Mrs Woolf and the Servants’, 16 August 2007

Mrs Woolf and the Servants: The Hidden Heart of Domestic Service 
by Alison Light.
Fig Tree, 376 pp., £20, August 2007, 978 0 670 86717 2
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... that ‘last night I would have put my head in the gas oven, if I wasn’t too frightened of the cook to go into the kitchen.’ The uneasy balance of power between domestic servants and their masters and mistresses, especially mistresses, is the theme of Alison Light’s study of the home life of Virginia Woolf, whose complicated relationship with her own ...

A Serious Table

Christopher Driver, 2 September 1982

Simple French Food 
by Richard Olney.
Jill Norman and Hobhouse, 339 pp., £7.95, October 1981, 0 906908 22 1
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Living off nature 
by Judy Urquhart.
Penguin, 396 pp., £5.95, May 1982, 0 14 005107 4
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The Food and Cooking of Russia 
by Lesley Chamberlain.
Allen Lane, 330 pp., £9.95, June 1982, 0 7139 1468 8
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Food, Wine and Friends 
by Robert Carrier.
Sphere, 197 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 7221 2295 0
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The Colour Book of Fast Food 
edited by Alison Kerr.
Octopus, 77 pp., £1.99, June 1981, 0 7064 1510 8
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... name is Glasse discovers his métier by the camp fire and is assured by his mentor that ‘a good cook, even on Board of Trade allowance, has brought many a ship to port that ‘ud otherwise ’ave mut’nied on the’igh seas.’ For a hundred and fifty years, ever since the best jobs in London kitchens began going to Frenchmen and later Italians, the ...

Deadly Eliza

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: ‘The Whole Family: A Novel by Twelve Authors’, 1 November 2001

The Whole Family: A Novel by Twelve Authors 
by William Dean Howells et al.
Duke, 416 pp., £13.50, November 2001, 0 8223 2838 0
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Publishing the Family 
by June Howard.
Duke, 304 pp., £13.50, November 2001, 0 8223 2771 6
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... family both within the narrative and outside it. Howells’s letter to the magazine’s editor, Elizabeth Jordan, has not survived, but according to Jordan, it ‘almost scorched the paper it was written on’: ‘Don’t, don’t let her ruin our beautiful story!’ Howells’s original proposal for The Whole Family had devoted more attention to its ...

Elzābet of Anletār

John Gallagher, 22 September 2016

This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World 
by Jerry Brotton.
Allen Lane, 358 pp., £20, March 2016, 978 0 241 00402 9
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... domain of Anletār’. It began a correspondence between Sultan Murad III and the most renowned Elizabeth, most sacred queen, and noble prince of the most mighty worshippers of Jesus, most wise governor of the causes and affairs of the people and family of Nazareth, cloud of most pleasant rain, and sweetest fountain of nobleness and virtue, lady and heir of ...

Good Manners

Craig Raine, 17 May 1984

The Collected Prose of Elizabeth Bishop 
edited by Robert Giroux.
Chatto, 278 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 7011 2809 7
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... Elizabeth Bishop was refined. Manners interested her, as The Collected Prose makes clear. She can remember learning ‘how to behave in school’ with more recall than most people: ‘this meant to sit up straight, not to scrape your feet on the floor, never to whisper, to raise your hand when you had to go out, and to stand up when you were asked a question ...

What would the Tahitians say?

Joyce Chaplin: Captain Bligh, 24 May 2012

Bligh: William Bligh in the South Seas 
by Anne Salmond.
California, 528 pp., £27.95, October 2011, 978 0 520 27056 5
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... for favouring a redistribution of the world’s material resources. All three had known Captain Cook, whose three voyages into the Pacific had staked out a British claim to the region and whose contacts in Tahiti made that island a keystone of Anglo-Polynesian relations. Pomare, also known as Tu, was a leading man on Tahiti, who, through war and ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: The Queen, 11 May 2006

... badges.’ Fergus: (treacherously) ‘He’s hardly got any.’ The Queen: ‘What fun. And do you cook sausages and things?’ Fergus: ‘Aye. In a fire.’ Me: ‘We’re going to the ice-rink.’ Fergus said she looked nothing like her postage stamp, but I was already examining my digital watch, and a full 70 minutes passed before we saw skates. Billy ...

His Own Peak

Ian Sansom: John Fowles’s diary, 6 May 2004

John Fowles: The Journals, Vol. I 
edited by Charles Drazin.
Cape, 668 pp., £30, October 2003, 9780224069113
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John Fowles: A Life in Two Worlds 
by Eileen Warburton.
Cape, 510 pp., £25, April 2004, 0 224 05951 3
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... inconceivable that someone would have chosen to live with such a monster of egotism, and yet Elizabeth Christy left her husband in Greece and moved to London to be with Fowles. Warburton claims that ‘Elizabeth is at the centre of the books, as she was of John Fowles’s life. There were no publishable novels before ...

The butler didn’t do it

Bee Wilson: The First Detectives, 19 June 2008

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or the Murder at Road Hill House 
by Kate Summerscale.
Bloomsbury, 334 pp., £14.99, April 2008, 978 0 7475 8215 1
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... that the boy was missing, did Samuel Kent ride to the nearby town of Trowbridge? The nursemaid, Elizabeth Gough, said that she had noticed Saville’s absence soon after 5 a.m. Why did she wait two hours before alerting the boy’s mother? Some thought Gough didn’t weep enough in the days after her charge’s death. She became the local police’s chief ...

A Little Pickle for the Husband

Michael Mason, 1 April 1999

Beeton's Book of Household Management 
by Isabella Beeton.
Southover, 1112 pp., £29.95, November 1998, 9781870962155
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... something which was deplored even at the time of the centenary of publication 38 years ago, when Elizabeth David pointed out that the currently available Mrs Beeton didn’t contain a single recipe from the original. That this is an odd state of affairs does not of itself make a facsimile of the 1861 book an interesting object. People buy and use the modern ...

At Free Love Corner

Jenny Diski, 30 March 2000

Literary Seductions: Compulsive Writers and Diverted Readers 
by Frances Wilson.
Faber, 258 pp., £12.99, October 1999, 0 571 19288 2
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... You can’t do anything else when you read a book. Listen to the radio and you can iron or cook. Watch television and you can (and must if you are to stay entertained) converse. But when you read you make it clear that you have withdrawn your attention from those around you. Perhaps your interest and concern. Who can tell? You are not available. The ...

Cumin-coated

Colin Burrow: Two Novels about Lost Bellinis, 14 August 2008

The Bellini Card 
by Jason Goodwin.
Faber, 306 pp., £12.99, July 2008, 978 0 571 23992 4
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The Bellini Madonna 
by Elizabeth Lowry.
Quercus, 343 pp., July 2008, 978 1 84724 364 5
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... of money. There are some odd Eastern recipes thrown in to lighten the mix, since our hero likes to cook: ‘In the frying pan he sautéed garlic and cumin seeds. The oil was hot; before the garlic could catch he dropped in the sliced liver and turned it quickly with a wooden spoon.’ Goodwin, it seems, knows that we deserve something a bit more nourishing ...

Take a pig’s head, add one spoonful of medium rage

Iain Bamforth: The poetry of Günter Grass, 28 October 1999

Selected Poems: 1956-93 
by Günter Grass, translated by Michael Hamburger.
Faber, 155 pp., £9.99, February 1999, 0 571 19518 0
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... art’s autonomy he was demonstrating to his critics that he was that unusual thing in Germany, a cook who tasted as he cooked, not one who followed the book – even if he did tend to overdo the salt. In fact, one of the poems in this bilingual edition, more than half of which replicates the Penguin selection of 30 years ago, is a recipe for jellied pig’s ...

Matters of Taste

Peter Graham, 4 December 1986

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen 
by Harold McGee.
Allen and Unwin, 684 pp., £20, September 1986, 9780043060032
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The French Menu Cookbook 
by Richard Olney.
Dorling Kindersley, 294 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 86318 181 3
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Out to Lunch 
by Paul Levy.
Chatto, 240 pp., £10.95, November 1986, 0 7011 3091 1
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The Good Food Guide 1987 
edited by Drew Smith.
Consumers’ Association/Hodder, 725 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 340 39600 8
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... to Europe, it causes pellagra. Most of the time, though, it is science which has much to teach the cook. McGee explains exactly why, for example, vegetables put in large quantities of already boiling water and cooked uncovered for a few minutes will keep their greenness. We learn how to make iced tea that is not cloudy and sauces that do not curdle. The great ...

The Only Way

Sam Kinchin-Smith: Culinary Mansplaining, 4 January 2018

... for, that 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 cunning’ of the painter Christian Schad, ‘and invented ...

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