By Agnes Jekyll
Persephone Books LTD
Reprinting: October 2008
Here’s the blurb from the publisher:
The author of Kitchen Essays (1922) was sister-in-law to the great Gertrude Jekyll, whose biographer wrote that if she ‘was an artist-gardener, then Agnes was an artist-housekeeper.’ Agnes was a famous hostess (the guests at her first dinner party included Browning, Ruskin and Burne-Jones) and her home, Munstead House, ‘was the apogee of opulent comfort and order without grandeur, smelling of pot-pourri, furniture polish and wood smoke’.
During 1921-2 (the now) Lady Jekyll wrote unsigned essays for The Times with titles such as ‘Tray Food’ and ‘Sunday Supper’. The Observer Food Magazine commended ‘lovely Persephone Books’ for reprinting Kitchen Essays, India Knight in The Shops called it ‘beautifully written, sparkling, witty and knowing, an absolute delight to read’, while the BBC Food Magazine praised ‘this exquisitely reprinted period piece’.
The Short of It:
A delightful distraction from the day-to-day.
The Rest of It:
Kitchen Essays is in fact, a collection of recipes, but it’s really quite a bit more than that. It’s a guide…almost a food bible of sorts for the hostess that needs a bit of help planning a menu. In the 1920s, every occasion was a party. Within its pages there are suggestions for a morning of Christmas shopping, dinner before a play, a Winter shooting party luncheon, and the section that got the most laughs out of me, For the Too Thin and For the Too Fat.
At just over 260 pages, I managed to stretch this one out for several months by reading a chapter at bedtime. It was the perfect antidote to a very stressful day. What I found incredibly humorous was the abundant use of butter and cream and the fact that nothing is really measured out. Meaning, that if you wanted to put these dishes together yourself, you’d have to do with a “walnut” piece of butter or a dribble of cream. Oh, and let’s not forget the clever use of aspic!
I think anyone that enjoys food and entertaining will really enjoy this one.