Book club: Arabella Boxer’s Book of English Food

This week I received an unexpected treat in the post, in the form of a book from my dear friend Harriet. Love books, love cookery books and especially love cookery books that are related to the 1920s so thumbs up, Reuter Hapgood, for ticking all of the boxes.

Let’s take a minute to breathe in the press release:

If you were Wallis Simpson and had a king coming round for supper, what would you have cooked? Or if you had a stunning estate in the country and were throwing a party for all your friends, what might you have served as canapés? Which cocktails would you have sipped?

That’s EXACTLY the kind of thing I spend my time thinking about!

Arabella Boxer’s Book of English Food: A Rediscovery of British Food from Before the War was first published in 1993 and is a celebration of English food in the 1920s and 30s – a pretty interesting time for food, actually. At one end of the spectrum you had Edwardian-style dinner parties and stately home nursery teas still very much in abundance, but there was also the added excitement of the American influence (from people like WALLIS!), French influence (from smart society deciding that’s where the best chefs were from) and more exotic influences from the Bloomsbury set who liked to travel, a lot, and bring their new-found tastes back with them.

I haven’t had the chance to make anything from the book yet, but here’s the jist. There’s a really interesting opening section which I have read, which covers a bit of history of the era and how food fits into that. It’s then broken down into sections by courses, with the all-important ‘Picnics and Shooting Lunches’ as well as, obviously, ‘Drinks’. Each of these sections opens with a bit of context about that specific course and how it fitted into life and social occasions, what was popular and why, and who was responsible for its popularity. The answer should always be: Wallis Simpson.

You’ve then got a bunch of recipes, which have been compiled from all sorts of sources ranging from country house cooks’ records, family memories, old issues of things like Vogue and lots and lots of historical recipe books.

As I said, I’ve not had the chance to cook anything just yet, but here’s a delicious-sounding cocktail instead;

Wine Cup

This recipe came from Justerini & Brooks, one of the leading wine merchants in the inter-war years, by appointment to King George VI. Justerini & Brooks were established in the 1750s, and are still going strong. This is a most delicious cup, pale pink in colour. It is slightly too sweet for drinking at a meal, but perfect for a pre-lunch drink, or at a party, on a summer day.The original recipe called for maraschino as well as brandy, but this is very hard to find nowadays, so I leave it out.

1 bottle of good vin rosé

75ml brandy

450ml fizzy lemonade

450ml soda water or sparkling mineral water

a few slices (unpeeled) of green apple, oranges and lemons

a few strips of cucumber peel

Serve very cold.

This isn’t the only book I own that covers historical cooking, and cooking for high-society. Clearly it’s something I do regularly, so I like to stock up. Arabella Boxer’s Book of English Food has an utterly fantastic bibliography too, so I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to add to the list. However;

The Duchess of Devonshire’s Chatsworth Cookery Book is the most famous of this genre, I guess. Famously she opens it with the words, “I haven’t cooked since the war,” but should you fancy salmon gravlax and cheddar terrine with beurre blanc sauce for 48 people, this one’s your best bet. Sticking with Chatsworth, I also love Rachel Green’s Chatsworth Cookery Book which isn’t quite so ridiculous and mostly covers cooking quick and easy meals with seasonal ingredients – but it mentions Chatsworth so it must be a bit fancy, and plenty of the recipes are historical. Finally, another new(ish) addition to my collection: Kitchen Essays by Agnes Jekyll. A Persephone publication, it rounds up Agnes’s recipes and food writing from the 20s with such categories as ‘entertaining bachelors’ and ‘dinner before the theatre’ – a delicious slice of inter-war life, for a certain sector of society anyway.

Arabella Boxer’s Book of English Food goes on sale 26 July and will be priced at a very reasonable £20. The above is clearly a review copy, hence the spiral-bind. For your twenty quid you’ll get a lovely hardback.

FUN FACT! Arabella Boxer’s grandson runs Frank’s Campari Bar in Peckham.

Thank Furcoat it’s Friday

1) Evidently the only things I watch on TV are Man Vs Food, Countryfile and BBC historical documentaries. The Timewatch series is fantastic and tomorrow there’s a promising-looking show about debutantes and the whole ~coming out~ season. The documentary focuses on 1939 – the year that was dubbed the last season because that whole thing kind of fell off during the war years, never to be reprised. I read Anne de Courcy’s fantastic book on the very same subject last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, so this’ll be a right old treat for me. And it promises a Mitford or two. Find out more here. [This Timewatch show about the Empire State Building is also worth a look, if you’re into art deco.)

2) I’m hoping to see W.E. this weekend – I know it’s going to be shit, but you know my thoughts on Wallis. What better way to get myself psyched up for the fashion binge than Stylist’s slideshow of her best outfits? I find it weird they didn’t identify some of the most famous pieces (the Schiaparelli, mainly) but it’s still a treat. The above picture is interesting – Wallis is obviously the point, but damn that woman in the background looks incredible, I want to know who she is.

3) This is a nice introduction to Dolly Wilde, who I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know a vast amount about. The rest of the site is worth a poke around too!

4) I’m particularly excited about mermaids as a Spring/Summer 2012 trend and this massively indepth Fashionising post makes it all the more appealing. Art deco mermaid lemonade advert c/o Vintage Browser.

5) Mad Men‘s acclaimed costume designer, Janie Bryant, shares her vintage shopping secrets here. Awesome read and some great shop suggestions too!

6) Last weekend we had an unexpected visit to Two Temple Place, the magnificent home of William Waldorf Astor on the Victoria Embankment. It’s my actual dream house and it’s open at the moment for a nice William Morris exhibition, which finishes on Sunday. There’s no better place to enjoy some intricate Morris works than in the arts-and-crafts surroundings of the house, so if you’re around this weekend, make sure you visit.

Wallis Simpson at the Little Black Gallery

Well, not quite Wallis Simpson. It’s actually Andrea Riseborough as Wallis Simpson, in Madonna’s upcoming W.E. film which you’ve already seen me harp on about here, here and here.

Just a little heads up for fellow Wallis-ites… Photographer Anthony Souza has a smell pre-Christmas exhibition on at London’s Little Black Gallery, featuring behind-the-scenes and on-set shots of the film – as well as some of his personal shots from India.

Madonna hand-picked the 25-year-old to document her upcoming drama and tasked him with capturing the style of Cecil Beaton’s original photographs of the couple. He was on hand for every single scene filmed, so there should be plenty to enjoy.

Anthony says: “I was visually inspired by the sets and costumes, and the romanticism and visual elegance of the scenes, which made me approach the photos as artistic works and not just publicity stills.”

The exhibition is on until 20 December at the Little Black Gallery, which you can find at 13A Park Walk, London SW10 0AJ

In related news, you can win a pair of signed W.E. prints from Anthony on the Stylist website at the moment. Find out more here!

Vanity Fair does W.E.

Wallis-mania has hit. Earlier this week I showed you some stills from the upcoming Madonna movie, W.E. and now we have a Duke and Duchess of Windsor shoot from Vanity Fair!!

I’m even more impressed with the casting than ever now – James D’Arcy and Andrea Riseborough really look the part and while that’s undoubtedly down to styling and makeup, they’re even holding themselves with the poise and mannerisms of Wallis and Edward.

Too excited about this film. Even if they just mumble their way through the lines it’ll be a visual treat.

[Via ONTD]

A few sneaky screencaps from W.E.

Wallis Simpson fans! I bring you the first few stills from Madonna’s upcoming W.E. – and what a joy they are. I’m really impressed with just how much Andrea Riseborough has captured Wallis and James D’Arcy bears a pretty good resemblance to Edward too.

I’m not a massive Madonna fan (I mean, obviously I love Madonna – I just don’t stan for every project she gets involved with) but I really hope this film is good. It looks stunning – just how bad can the script be??

[Pictures via ONTD]

Wallis Simpson wardrobe auction

Fellow Wallis Simpson-ites will have no doubt heard that our favourite divorcee is back in the news, as yet more of her belongings are auctioned off for charity next week. Wallis seems to be more omnipresent than ever at the moment, with her King’s Speech guest appearance and yet more news about Madonna’s upcoming biopic. As you know it’s a case of the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned – she’s fascinating.

Following the high profile jewellery auction which took place last year the new sale sees a collection of Wallis’s accessories go under the hammer, as well as some tabloid-friendly rather fancy lingerie. Johnny foreigner eh? Coming over here, stealing our kings, wearing pink and black negligees… Tsk.

This Schiaparelli leopard print heart-shaped waist pouch is one of my favourite items in the sale. Dating from 1949, it wouldn’t look out of place in any collection today – total cliche I am aware, but seriously! Look at it!

This personalised Louis Vuitton vanity bearing the Duchess of Windsor legend and a faux tortoiseshell address label is also rather magnificent… But my favourite thing in the auction has to be…

The sale is taking place at Kerry Taylor Auctioneers in aid of the Dodi International Charitable Foundation (yep that Dodi).

[Pics: Huffington Post and Daily Mail]

Wallis Simpson inspires Dior pre-fall

My fascination with Wallis Simpson is pretty well-documented – I think Madonna is probably slightly more in to her than me, but only just. Evidently John Gallian has a fascination with the black sheep of the royal family too, and his pre-fall 2011 collection for Dior is totally inspired by her. OMG!

SWOON. The collection is something of a romp through the Duchess of Windor’s history; from a tartan gown suitable for the Highland Fling depicted in The King’s Speech to drop-waisted ball gowns via car coats and furry waxed jackets.

It’s collections like this that make me think I could sit through W.E. quite happily.

See it all here!

PS Maria Kashleva is a dead ringer for Wallis – well, a good looking Wallis.

Wallis Simpson jewels sell at auction

Wallis Simpson has been on my mind a lot lately – not just because she has a lot to do with the ‘set’ that I read so much about, but also because of Gillian Anderson’s excellent portrayal of her in the Any Human Heart adaptation.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that half of Wallis’s jewellery collection has just been flogged at auction, breaking records and making millions in the process. The big seller was the Cartier-designed diamond-encrusted leopard bracelet you see above, which sold for a record-breaking £4.5m at auction. Swit swoo! Madonna is rumoured to have been the big spender responsible for buying it – wonder if it’s for the WE film, or her own use?

For all your thoughts on Wallis and Edward, there’s no disputing that he was a fine jewellery buyer – and also a real old romantic. The deeply personal collection is full of beautiful pieces, which all have touching and slightly tragic stories behind them.

This is my favourite lot, for sheer romance values. OK so first of all it’s an 18 carat gold and gem-set Cartier cigarette case; but more importantly it is decorated with a map, showing with gem stones the places the couple visited together. Isn’t that nice? Sigh. It’s engraved with, “Wallis from Edward, Christmas 1935”, and sold for £181,250.

This bracelet is my favourite item, in terms of things I want to wear. It’s another piece of Cartier, and dates back to 1935 – Edward gave it to the Duchess, and she wore it on their wedding day in 1937. The nine gem crosses signify important incidents in their relationship – starting with number as on their wedding day. Wonder what the other eight were?? It sold this week for over £600,000.

This diamond dress suite is also from Cartier, and dates from 1935. As with most of the jewellery Edward gave Wallis, it’s engraved with the intertwined initials W and E, and features the inscription (prepare yourself), ‘Hold Tight’. This phrase was kind of the couple’s motto, and they used it in most of their correspondence before his abdication. Too much!

Read what else was sold, and for how much, on Professional Jeweller.