Adelaide’s Wakefield Press recently sent out notification of their new and current publications, which included a few re-releases of some older titles. They have some delightful titles in their new editions and I urge you to pop over here for a look, but I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a closer look at a couple of the older books. Theses books both contain recipes, but both offer the reader much more than just the promise of a good meal.
Kafka’s Soup by Mark Crick
The cover of this slender little volume promises “A complete history of world literature in 14 recipes” – a surprising claim in anyone’s estimation, but if you are lover of both food and literature you won’t be disappointed. Now, I can’t claim an utterly comprehensive knowledge of the history of literature, but it was pretty clear to me that Mark Crick, the author, has certainly done his English homework.
Each of the 14 recipes in the book is written in the style of a different, noted literary author and the results are very funny and very clever. Homer shares a delicious recipe for the Maltese dish, Fenkata, John Steinbeck depresses us with a Mushroom Risotto and dear Jane Austen takes four and a half pages to deliver a recipe for Tarragon Eggs. Contemporary authors are not left out with Irvine Welsh’s outrageous recipe for Rich Chocolate Cake my favourite by far. Crick accompanies each recipe with one of his own original illustrations or photographs in exactly the manner of the original works, suggesting that his skills are not at all limited to writing.
This little book had me in stitches and was quickly appropriated by my daughter whom I later found giggling in a corner over it. A perfect gift for the bookish foodie in anyone’s life.
The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook by Alice B. Toklas
Alice was the life partner and lover of the well-known writer, poet and art collector, Gertrude Stein, with whom she lived in Paris until Stein’s death in 1946. She wrote her cookbook some years later, when seeking something to occupy her while she recuperated from an illness. This book is really something of a memoir as it mingles recollections, reflections and recipes from Toklas’ life and travels with Stein during and after the war. Toklas and Stein were famous for their Paris salon where they entertained some of the leading literary and artistic personalities of the time and, while Stein is remembered for her art collection and writings, Toklas’ legacy is a little more obscure. She was quite satisfied to stand in the shadow of Stein, undertaking the role of secretary, cook and general support – hence her interest in culinary matters.
First published in 1954, the chapters of the book are divided into some very interesting categories, listing things like “Dishes for Artists” with details of Bass for Picasso, food during the Occupation and food in the US in 1934 and 1935. There is one recipe included for which the book is quite notorious. Haschich Fudge is a blend of spices, nuts and fruit to which is added “a bunch of canibus sativa” and which “anyone can whip up on a rainy day”, although Ms. Toklas does point out that obtaining the canibus (sic) can present some difficulties. This recipe alone ensured that her name was remembered well into the heady days of the 1960’s and ’70’s when it was lent to a range of chemically enhanced baked goods.
Notoriety aside, the book is a warm and charming account of travels and meals with her beloved companion (who is always given her full title, Gertrude Stein, in the narrative) with the original recipes of the time. On a sad footnote, Alice B. Toklas died in poverty (Stein’s family took the artworks which she had willed to Toklas) in 1967 at the age of 89 and is buried next to her lover in Paris.