Friday 9 October 2020

Cooking The Books

Blogland is a great place to get good recommendations for reading. Sue In Suffolk posted a picture of her September Stack of library books - and one caught my eye "The Little Library Year" by Kate Young. I promptly reserved it from Ferndown Library. Up until 2018, Kate wrote regularly for the Guardian food section. This book is to some extent, a compilation of those pieces [check here]

An Australian, who came to the UK in 2009, she has settled happily here, and her recipes draw on her Oz roots, her British surroundings, and the Scandinavian cuisine learned from a loving family who 'adopted' her. She adores reading- so the cookbook is full of recipes connected with favourite literature.

There are six 'seasonal' sections - Long winter nights, First signs of Spring, Spring in Abundance, Height of summer, When the leaves start to turn, and As the days grow short. [these are  from January to December- but she acknowledges that 'back home' Christmas falls in the summertime!] There is a helpful list of seasonal produce for each section. And such beautiful illustrations.

The endpapers are delightful - showing bookshelves with her reading material, interspersed with fruit, nuts, eggs, cabbages... but not every book on the shelf has an associated recipe. It is a fun game to check them against [a] your own library and [b] the literary index which is after the recipe index.

I have never really thought much about connecting books with seasons before - much less about the associated foods. To Kill a Mockingbird is a 'summer' book, and Christmas Carol is obviously a winter book. But I love the idea of early spring, and honey and Bathsheba Everdene's bees in "Far From The Madding Crowd", and Cassandra Mortmain eating bread, butter and honey in "I capture the castle". Each section starts with a suggested reading list - so now we are in October- and Cider with Rosie reminds us of all the great apple recipes.

Next month, after the clocks have changed and the days grow short, we discover the joys of toast [toast is all over the place in literature - Mary Poppins "smelled of white linen and toast", Gandalf eats two whole loaves for breakfast in The Hobbit...] And soup, beautiful soup...

But it is a reading book, not a keeping book, imho, which is why I am grateful for our library, and the opportunity to reserve and peruse it, but not commit to purchase. Kate refers to many books I know and love, others I have heard of but never read, and new stuff. I shall go through it again and make some notes, I think. 

The two seasonal recipes which I hope to try out are the oatcakes inspired  by Danny The Champion of the World's Poaching Adventure[although perhaps not the accompanying Trout Pate] and the Rosemary Tarte Tatin [Cider with Rosie] I'll let you know how they work out. I have never made my own oatcakes, and as Bob has a great fondness for "some oatcakes and a bite of cheese" it would be a good skill to master. 

Thank you so much for pointing me towards this one, Sue. I have really enjoyed it.It is not too big to hold, and has a proper ribbon bookmark, - always useful if one likes to read in bed! 

A number of the reviews use the word generosity. It is that sort of book - full of gratitude to others [for their stories, their recipes, their love] and has a generous, giving attitude, wanting to pass on these joys, and this genuine "comfort food" to her readers.

I don't want to own this, but I would definitely rate it *****


  1. Thank you for the recommendation. You left me wondering what you had against trout pâté?!

    1. Simply the lack of trout! I have all the oatcake ingredients in the cupboard. I love trout. We had 2 friends in Leicester whose hobby was trout fishing, and occasionally we'd be given a freshly caught one. Delicious...

  2. Mmm...trout pate....
    The book sounds lovely!! I ALWAYS loved Enid Blyton's books for the food descriptions. My mum bought me the Famous Five cookbook last year which was inspired by her descriptions!

    1. I've not come across the EB one - is it full of ginger beer, sticky buns and sandwich fillings? I read an EB book with a pupil last year - he had heard of her, but never read any of her stuff. He was intrigued by the 'strange' food - and the extremely lax parenting that allowed young children to go off on their own in a boat, to an island for a week! Also amazed that they had no mobile phones or computers [and when I tried to explain about public call-boxes, he was totally baffled]

  3. I do own this book and although I have yet to read it properly I do like it enough to be glad that I own it. Unfortunately it is in the Van and I am at home, so reading it will have to wait a bit longer.

    I love seeing stacks of other peoples books and find myself perusing the photographs for far too long.

    1. I understand about The Van. I often look for a book and realise it is in Norfolk. Good to know I'm not the only one fascinated by other people's books. There is a Twitter account devoted to showing famous people in front of their books during lockdown

  4. Sounds like a fun cookbook. I have a cookbook featuring the recipes for dishes mentioned in the Little House series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

  5. Whenever I see someone being interviewed in front of their bookcase, I try and see if they've any books similar to the ones on my bookcases. Invariably not in most cases! Have a good weekend, Angela and Bob. xxx


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