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Untitled in Paris

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(c) Jo Spiller, All Rights Reserved


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May 23, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Austerity Era Dining

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(c) Jo Spiller, All Rights Reserved

Another long weekend in London, another little trip to Persephone Books. This time I returned home with a selection of cookery-themed books from the 1930s and 40s. I say ‘cookery-themed’  because they are a little more than just recipe books. Kitchen Essays by Agnes Jekyll, for example, is full of entertaining and slightly satirical commentary.

For example:

Your spinster aunt will certainly accuse you of undue extravagance after she has partaken freely of your [Gigot de Six Heures].

Complaints of the difficulties one can have when one’s cook, “whose mothers so often specialize in sudden and disastrous illnesses” during the holiday season, leave and one is faced with an unexpected emergency. i.e. having to cook!

The recipes themselves are curious indeed, looking at them with a 21st century eye.  Gelee Creme de Menthe begins

Make a quart of good lemon jelly in the approved way, preferably with calves’ feet…

or shopping lists for the butcher that read

half a pound calf’s liver, half a pound veal cutlet, 1 sweetbread, 2 kidneys and a set of brains

So one book is rather liberally peppered with French recipe names – Potage a la Ecossaise? – well that’ll be Scotch Broth then – giving it a sense of belonging to the more privileged classes.

The other book is more prosaic. A wartime ‘make do and mend’ handbook for cheap and cheery, easy to cook, food. Although still with curiously named dishes like Jugged Hare or Junket and Cream. 

So this is my latest plan. Age of Austerity Dinner Parties. I will head down to Findlay’s in Portobello with my shopping list of liver, calves’ feet, kidneys and brains, guests should all come in frippery-free, 1940s style clothing, preferably with some homemade stout or equivalent – and we can all explore together, the joys of 101 things to put in aspic.

Followed by tinned peaches and a milk pudding.

p.s. photo was taken in Shakespeare and Co, Paris not Persephone Books, London


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(c) All Rights Reserved, Jo Spiller

… will be girls.

Only sometimes with less lippy and a little more knitwear.

These figurines hidden down the back of a vintage books stall on the Left Bank in Paris remind me somehow of the old ‘saucy’ postcards that people used to send from the British seaside.


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May 9, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Rubbernecking a Dead President (and other misadventures)

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Mon Histoire

(c) Jo Spiller, All Rights Reserved

In the past 10 days, I’ve taken off 9 times and landed in 6 different countries. I’ve had a brilliant week of work in Malawi and a conference presentation in Antwerp.

I’ve spent more time than I ever want to again at Nairobi airport and know more about the Machiavellian world of competitive flower arranging than I ever thought possible.

I filed past the coffin of the late Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, drank Belgian beer with the coolest girls in Antwerp and almost went the way of Mama Cass in Paris, choking to death on a ham baguette.

I’ve returned with a suitcase full of honey and Gin from Malawi, Speculoos spread and some very salty licorice from Amsterdam and of course, chocolate from Belgium.

Hmm, what to cook with that little lot!

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April 26, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Rue Du Chat Qui Peche

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I don’t think there are enough surrealist street names in this world. This one was called The Cat that Fishes Street.

If I ever win the lottery, I will buy an island, build a street and name it Boulevard This is Not a Pipe with a giant mosaic of a pipe created in the paving stones.

Who says Lottery Winners can’t spend their money wisely?

Shakespeare and Company

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A little pictorial tribute to the man, George Whitman, who founded this magical place in the centre of Paris in 1951 and who died in his apartment above it yesterday, aged 98.

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December 15, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Channelling the Sontag

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Shakespeare and Co, Paris. 19th November, 2011.

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December 5, 2011 at 10:39 pm