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The Virginia Woolf, Geoffrey Chaucer or Raymond Chandler Cookbooks


High literary comedy from Mark Crick at The Independent, who imagines what celebrity cookbooks would look like if Virginia Woolf, Geoffrey Chaucer or Raymond Chandler had turned their skills to cooking. The Chandler part is brilliant.

Woolf
Gently she melted the butter, transparent and smooth, oleaginous and clear, clarified and golden, and mixed it with the sugar in a large bowl. Should she have made something traditionally English? (Involuntarily, piles of cake rose before her eyes.) Of course the recipe was French, from her grandmother. English cooking was an abomination: it was boiling cabbages in water until they were liquid; it was roasting meat until it was shrivelled; it was cutting out the flavours with a blunt knife.

Chandler
I sipped on my whiskey sour, ground out my cigarette on the chopping board and watched a bug trying to crawl out of the basin. I needed a table at Maxim’s, a hundred bucks and a gorgeous blonde; what I had was a leg of lamb and no clues. I took hold of the joint. It felt cold and damp, like a coroner’s handshake. I took out a knife and cut the lamb into pieces. Feeling the blade in my hand I sliced an onion, and before I knew what I was doing a carrot lay in pieces on the slab. None of them moved. I threw the lot into a pan with a bunch of dill stalks, a bay leaf, a handful of peppercorns and a pinch of salt. They had it coming to them, so I covered them with chicken stock and turned up the heat. I wanted them to boil slowly, just about as slowly as anything can boil. An hour and a half and a half-pint of bourbon later they weren’t so tough and neither was I. I separated the meat from the vegetables and covered it. The knife was still in my hand but I couldn’t hear any sirens.

Chaucer
On a floured board roll pastry that it be thinne,
Caste thereto with thyme and line a deep tinne.
Trimme the edges neat with a cooke’s knyfe,
Then bake it blinde at gasse mark fyve.
Melt the butter and oyle in an heavie panne,
Covered wiv a lidde, as knoweth every man.
Then adde onyons in slices fine ywrought,
And caste thereto sugar and salte.

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Richard Davies

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