The first thing I have to make clear is that the title The Bloomsbury Cookbook is a misnomer. It is NOT your normal cookbook with lists of recipes and ingredients. As its subtitle says 'Recipes for Life, Love and Art' and, to me, is more of a social history than anything else.
I also have to make clear that my knowledge of the Bloomsbury Group is limited. I lived in Bloomsbury for years as a child and then ignorant teenager and knew little of the collective authors gathered under this title. Since then of course I have learned much more about them and while writing this am drinking coffee out of my Room of One's Own mug. This does not make me a knowledgeable or erudite Bloomsbury reviewer but this particular book is so glorious and I love it so much I am going to do my very best to do it justice.
So many books have been written about the Bloomsbury Group that you would have thought there was nothing new to say about any of them, but it seems not. The author has written about them in their homes, at the table where they talked and talked and disagreed and argued while dining.
I have to say that I warmed towards Strachey when I learned that his favourite dish was rice pudding. One of my childhood favourites as well but it seems he ate it every day....
A couple of delights I spotted this morning in my perusal. There are many more which are simply divine and I have had difficulty in choosing which quotes to use but these are two of my favourites:
In 1928 Virginia and Vita Sackville-West went to Burgundy where they ate the 'vastest most delicious meal I have ever eaten'. It started with pate of duck and ended with 'pears ad lib' and there follows the recipe which features pears, burgundy, orange juice and cinnamon and cloves which makes my mouth water just reading it.
In 1932 Vanessa Bell and Virginia attended a reception in St James where 'young men in white jackets served blue and green cocktails with what looked like gold leaf floating on the surface'. Try it yourself with the recipes that follow Green Dragon and Blue Devil Cocktail.
I could go on and on quoting and illustrating from this fascinating book but instead I will urge you to purchase one for yourself so that you can see why I love it so much. The somewhat elevated figures of the Bloomsbury set are brought to life and the recipes can be used today with no difficulty at all. Please note this is not a book to be read at a sitting, it should be dipped in and savoured. I have spent a happy hour ot two this morning doing just that and will continue to do so. More importantly, it has made me feel I want to explore and read more about this disparate collection of minds and personalities. I certainly will find no lack of books on the subject of that I am sure.
And, finally, who would not want a cook like this:
"Annie the cook has taken a turn for the good, and now makes us delicious bread, suet pudding and other inventions. Morally, she has taken a turn for the bad; lies and loafs about with young boys. But I've decided now to interest myself in her morals no more, only her cooking" Dora Carrington.
PS -I am currently compiling my books of 2014 and this is going on it right now.