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A little dinner before the play

Agnes Jekyll A little dinnerBy Agnes Jekyll

Here’s another grerat title from the Great Food Penguin Series
a great mix between snobbery literature, food and etiquette. Although many of these texts were articles where recipes are incidental each piece indeed an essay that flirts but not quite turns into a memoirs. They’re too edited and polished to feel that intimate

Cooking should always fit the occasion and temperament which is an interesting idea when you think of it, a very romantic way to translate one’s feelings, the surrounding environment and even the weather and into a meal that echoes and blends those features.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise us that much as we learn more about this fascinating woman. Agnes Jekyll was Scottish artist, journalist and writer.

She married Sir Herbert Jekyll brother of the very famous landscape and garden designer Gertrude Jekyll .

Agnes Jekyll

Agnes was quite actively involved in the artistic scene of the time, she Burne Joneswas a generous patron of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and close friends of Ruskin, Burne-Jones and Browning.

Amongst her most recognisable works are the Kitchen Essays and some pieces published in The Times such as ‘Tray Food’ and ‘Sunday Supper‘.

Her writing was smart, quick, articulate and funny. Always making the reader chase her and keep up with the profuse flow of references.

Although many of us don’t have many (if any) memories of having a cordonbleu breakfast we can relate to the same daunting thought of making breakfast when we much rather stay in bed:

Many of us feel like that man who, meeting a bore, said, “If you have got anything to say to me I wish you kindly say it to somebody else“.

She by no means had the need to prepare her own food or even had to ponder on the requirements of making a good toast. Yet she masterfully captures in one evocative paragraph, the skill and talents needed to succeed at such task:

 Toast, to be good, demands a glowing grate, a handy toasting-fork, and a patient watcher – counsels of perfection indeed, for the ideal rack is like friendship and the immortality of the soul, almost too good to be true.

I don’t think I’d ever put such value on a rack but there you have it. (trying too hard much?)Toasts.JPG

Here’s some good advice on what to feed public figures.

Food for artists and speakers:

Musical and dramatic artists as well as public speakers and lecturers find they cannot give out their best very soon after a substantial meal […] a light supplement to a late 5 o’ clock tea us the usual practice for those with a public appearance before them. And eggs, boiled, poached or en cocotte, with savoury sandwiches are the most obvious addition to the tea table. (of course)

The recipes and other texts compiled in this book appear in The Kitchen Essays (1922)  The pieces selected have very appealing names indeed, including:

  • Luncheon for a motor excursion in winter
  • For men only
  • Bachelors entertaining
  • For the too thin
  • For the too fat
  • Food for the punctual and the unpunctual
  • Of good taste in food

You can read other reviewed titles of the same series I’ve previously reviewed which include: The elegant economist, The Campaign for Domestic Happiness, Love in a dish & other pieces.



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