Adventures in food and literature

I’m a recipe magpie. Basically this means that more often than not, someone else invented the meals I cook. I love my celebrity chefs. Put me in front of a TV and I’ll watch The Great British Bake Off and Little Paris Kitchen all day.

For Christmas lunch I whipped up a feast for family and friends. Needless to say I drew on the expertise of Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater and good old Jamie Oliver to help me out. Everything tasted great, so clearly there’s nothing wrong with my cooking. I just love recipes.

It’s not that I don’t like experimenting in the kitchen. The problem is, if I see something delicious, then I get the sudden urge to make it myself. This isn’t confined to food shows. After binging on Downton Abbey, I was struck with the impulse to invite people over for tea and cucumber sandwiches.

I don’t even need to see a picture of a dish to want to make it. Reading about food is enough to get me in the kitchen. As a kid my favourite book was Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree. If a recipe for Silky the fairy’s Pop Biscuits existed at the time, I probably would have insisted my Mom make them. (Thanks to the Internet, it does now)

Tasting real honest to goodness Butterbeer at the Harry Potter Studios in Leavesden was pretty much the best day ever. I’ve even hosted my own Harry Potter party complete with chocolate Snitches, liquorice wands and pumpkin pasties.

Reading any Terry Pratchett novel is enough to get my tummy grumbling. From Archchancellor Ridcully’s Wow-Wow Sauce to Distressed Pudding and Sausage Inna Bun, if it sounds good, I want to eat it.

You can imagine my joy when Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook came out. And yes, I own a copy. It is much loved.

The Lord of the Rings is another great hunger inducing novel. Breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses? Yes please! I’m not alone in this literary food quest either. The Internet is bursting with recipes for Elven Lembas Bread and other fictional delights. There is even a blog dedicated to recipes of dishes mentioned in Agatha Christie novels.

I was on leave recently and decided to spend my days reading Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. It’s a sublime book, filled with delicious goodies. For example, quite early in the novel, Cromwell baked a batch of delicious tarts for Lady Anne and her ladies. The whole point of being on holiday was to do as little as possible, but after reading that chapter I put the novel down and reached for the nearest recipe book.

If you’re curious to taste the Tudor treat for yourself, Jamie Oliver has the most amazing recipe for jam tarts.

Thinking about it, this fascination with literary nom noms isn’t that unusual. I love cooking as much as I love books. It makes complete sense to combine them both.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in the kitchen reading a book.

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