Tuesday 18 February 2014

Extended registration deadline

It's now less than 3 weeks to go until the conference, and we are so excited to welcome you all to Warwick on 8th March for a nourishing day of discussion! We have extended the registration deadline to Wednesday 26th February to give you all time to return the registration forms.

There have been a few changes to our programme over the past few weeks; you can see the most up-to-date one here. In addition to a full day of brilliant speakers, we are welcoming AVM Curiosities to Warwick to provide us with artistic edible interventions into food history! You can check out their previous fantastic foodie creations here.

You can register by filling in the form on the Warwick website, found here, and sending it in to us at the address given. The cost is £10 for Warwick staff & students, £15 for students, and £20 full registration.

If you have any queries please don't hesitate to direct them to us at devouring2014@gmail.com.

Mary, Laura & Chris

Monday 3 February 2014

Programme additions and registration reminder

With little over a month to go until the conference, here's a reminder to register, if you haven't already. We have a really exciting day of papers lined up with many brilliant speakers, and the whole thing costs only £20, or £15 if you're a student, with a further reduction for University of Warwick staff and students. You can view the full programme here, and register here.

To draw your attention to some recent changes to the programme; Sam Goodman from Bournemouth University joins panel 1A, with a paper entitled '"Oh for the want of vegetable food!": Experiences of Hunger and Privation in Indian Mutiny Diaries'. Jonathan Buckmaster from Royal Holloway joins panel 2A with his paper '"I'll be content to eat my own head, Sir!": Grimwig, Grimaldi and Excessive Consumption in the Dickens Pantomime'. We're very pleased to welcome both speakers and look forward to hearing their papers on 8th March.

A final exciting announcement is that thanks to the generous support of Warwick RSSP, we are able to welcome Animal Vegetable Mineral to the conference. AVM employ food as an artistic medium, creating edible interventions into food history which stimulate the mind and the taste buds. We are thrilled to have AVM's founder, food historian Tasha Marks, joining us at 'Devouring' to talk about her practice and share with us some goodies inspired by nineteenth-century food adulteration scandals.

See you all on the 8th March!
Mary, Laura and Chris.

Sunday 19 January 2014

Some thoughts on recipe books and collections

The idea for this conference was first seeded when Laura, Chris and I met over two years ago as we all embarked on our PhDs at Warwick. One of the first things we bonded over was a shared love of cookery books - we all confessed that we read them in bed like novels. Over wine and nibbles (naturally), we talked about our favourite writers, favourite recipes, which books had the best pictures, the ones we actually cooked from, the aspirational ones whose pages never got splashed with oil or tomatoes, the ones we came back to again and again, and the ones our parents had.

My favourite cookbooks encourage leisurely reading. More than just lists of ingredients and instructions, they might include a story about how the recipe came to be, advice on the seasonality of ingredients, or an anecdote about an occasion which made a dish so special, and plenty of beautifully shot photographs of the food. Nigel Slater and Tessa Kiros are cases in point.

As an undated annal, Slater's Kitchen Diaries does more than suggest the importance of eating ‘at a time when it is most appropriate, when the ingredients are at their peak of perfection, when the food, the cook and the time of year are at one with each other’ (although I think Slater does achieve that aim [vii]). It also has an invitation to reread and to remember built into its structure. Its insistence on the importance of seasonality inscribes the book with an invitation to come back to it again and again - it’s more advisory than prescriptive, tempting us to change recipes, modify their ingredients, and invent our own dishes. 

Tessa Kiros' work, and I am thinking particularly of Apples for Jam, as it's the one currently on my shelf, intermingles narrative and reminiscence with recipes, with a particular focus on the inherited habits of her children; ‘they separate the food up into groups on their plates and save, just like I did, the best for last’(280). Its rich illustrations contain photographs not only of food, but of family, too, of well-loved toys and of kitchen equipment, and scattered amongst these are Kiros’ childrens’ crayon drawings. 

Fig. 1. My copy of Apples for Jam, replete with page markers for my favourite recipes.

Kiros evocatively describes her sensory engagement with foods which, when encountered, act as triggers for latent memories and reminiscences. A recipe for mango sorbet is followed by the following memory;
We always saved our mango stones. We tore off every scrap with our teeth and then washed and scrubbed them carefully, running our nails first in one direction and then the other until they were clean of all mango. After they were towel-dried, we kept our mango pets and brushed their lovely hair with our old toothbrushes. They still needed a bath and looking after now and then (110)
Kiros’ works play on the fragmentary nature both of cookery books and memory itself, and their intersections with materiality. 

Reading Apples for Jam, one feels a sense of intimacy that speaks to the importance of inheritance and community to domestic culinary culture, as Kiros describes the role that food has played in her experiences of family life, as both child and adult. Many recipes originate with others: ‘this is Harriet’s - my mum’s friend in Finland - a wonderful, stylish lady and cook’; ‘my friend Annabelle told me about this’; ‘these are from a friend of Giovanni...I made him hound her until she finally gave me the recipe’. The books are like a formalised, published version of the kinds of cookbooks that many of us have at home - the cookbook into which we insert recipes from friends and family, clippings from magazines, transcriptions of recipes from other books, recipes in letters from friends, lovingly transcribed or hastily scribbled - perhaps, now, recipes printed from favourite blogs and websites (however much we might enjoy online scrapbooks like Pinterest, I’m not sure they will ever render homemade cookbooks obsolete). These books are invariably the most-used on the shelf - in its short history, mine has required cardboard reinforcements and strategic superglue on several occasions.

Nicola Humble speaks of such scrap/cookbooks in the introduction to her excellent book Culinary Pleasures: Cookbooks and the Transformation of British Food. Humble talks about her mother's edition of The Constance Spry Cookery Book, which 'has acquired accretions of text', with annotations, modifications, and layer upon layer of insertions. These books, Humble suggests, 'become palimpsests, the original text overlaid with personal meanings and experiences' (3). Like the best collections, these books never stop changing and evolving. Andrea Newlyn, writing about nineteenth-century manuscript cookbooks, suggests that recipes contain a 'narrative structure that enables readers…to recreate the events - ingredients, amounts, results - that produced and formed the originary text', while simultaneously allowing each new reader (or cook) to 'reinscribe' the narrative before passing it on (‘Redefining ‘Rudimentary’ Narrative’, 44). For an example, see fig. 2 below, in which my friend gives me her version of a Nigella Lawson recipe.

Fig 2. Nigella's Thai Green Curry (additional instructions by Hannah).

Newlyn notes in particular recipes wherein relationships are inscribed in the title; ‘Louise’s rock cakes’ or ‘Granny’s apple pie’. This kind of attribution, she suggests ‘is not only an articulation and reflection of community, but, more importantly, a designation that establishes a heritage of tradition and ritual in the form of recipes passed on from mother to daughter or from friend to neighbour' (43). These kinds of cookbooks, as they record cumulative knowledge passed between generations, can reveal much about the relationships and networks in which the women who write and compile them exist(ed). 

Fig. 3. Pages from my sister's cookbook, including recipes from friends and family

Fig. 4. A recipe in my cookbook for Sussex Sausage Casserole (from Steve's friend at work)

Fig. 5. My mum's made-up soup recipe, in my cookbook.

Fig. 6. Dhal recipe in my mum's handwriting, on a well-used page from my cookbook.

The pictures above are from recipe books belonging to myself and my sister (figs. 3-6). But we’re only the latest in a long line of women to compile manuscript or scrapbook cookbooks. The pictures below are of a cookbook given to my mother by her mother - it contains recipes and remedies noted down by Anne Chamberlain, one of her (and - obviously - my) ancestors (figs. 7-9). Some of the recipes have attributions, some don’t, and what makes the book particularly poignant is that in 1793, Anne records her name as ‘Anne Cross’ - but by 1812, she is ‘Anne Chamblerlain’- and practices writing her new name on the inside cover. Anne took her family’s recipes into her married life, continued to add to them, and passed them down to the next generation (my mother and I haven’t yet cooked from this book - perhaps that’s another blog post).

Fig. 7. 'Anne Cross - Her Book. 1793'

Fig. 8. 'Anne Chamberlain. Her Book. 1812'

Fig. 9. A recipe for plain cake (interrupted by instructions for making syrup)

These compilation cookbooks are collections, of course. They share a strong relationship to material memory with physical collections of objects. Like collections of stamps or coins, they're a personal legacy and often passed through family lines. But discussions about collecting behaviours tend to exclude them from their analysis. There’s clearly a gender dimension to this omission - historically, domestic cookbooks tend to be written and compiled by women, who, as Susan Pearce recognises, are less frequently identified as collectors. In part this is due to their absence from typical collecting records such as museum registers, but also because the history of women’s collecting is ‘largely domestic...in which collected material mixes...with other kinds of goods, and the whole forms a unity to which no dividing self or specifying self-consciousness is attached’ (On Collecting, 207).

This view of female collecting is particularly interesting in relation to cookbooks. Whilst the books clearly document women’s lives, they’re not merely self-referential. They record friendships, relationships, milestone events, communities and family ties. Baudrillard’s understanding of the collector as the constructer of an alternative discourse’ in which ‘the ultimate signified’ is ‘none other than himself’ seems redundant here. Instead, female compilers of scrapbook cookbooks are constructing a material archive that documents the relationships and networks in which the collector is implicated. If we read lives from cookbooks, the selves that we find are malleable, fallible, subject to change and revision, and, crucially, constructed through community.

Mary Addyman

Works cited

Jean Baudrillard, 'The System of Collecting', in The Cultures of Collecting, ed. John Elsner and Roger Cardinal (London: Reaktion Books, 1994), pp. 7-24

Nicola Humble, Culinary Pleasures: Cookbooks and the Transformation of British Food (London: Faber and Faber, 2005)

Tessa Kiros, Apples for Jam (New South Wales: Murdoch Books, 2006)

Andrea K. Newlyn, 'Redefining 'Rudimentary' Narrative: Women's Nineteenth-Century Manuscript Cookbooks', in The Recipe Reader: Narratives, Contexts, Traditions, ed. Janet Floyd and Laurel Forster (Lincolna and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2003), pp. 31-51

Susan Pearce, On Collecting: An investigation into collecting in the European tradition (London: Routledge, 1995)

Nigel Slater, The Kitchen Diaries (London: Fourth Estate, 2005)

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Programme and registration

We are pleased to announce the programme for 'Devouring: Food, Drink and the Written Word, 1800-1945'. A pdf version is available here.

We hope that many of you will be able to join us for what promises to be a very stimulating day - the booking form, directions to the campus and other information can be found here.

Conference fees are £20 full, £15 for students, and £10 for University of Warwick staff and students.

Devouring: Food, Drink and the Written Word, 1800-1945

Saturday 8th March 2014

Humanities Building, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK
09.30 – 10.00am: Registration, tea and coffee (Ground floor corridor)
10.00 – 10.15am: Welcome and Introduction (H052)
Mary Addyman, Laura Wood and Christopher Yiannitsaros (University of Warwick)
10.15 – 11.15am: Keynote Address I (H052)
Dr. Margaret Beetham (University of Salford): Title TBC
11.15 - 11.30am: Tea and coffee break (Ground floor corridor)

11.30am - 12.50pm Session 1
Panel 1A – Regional, National and Culinary Identities (H058)
Lucy Dow (History, University College London), ‘Imagining the Nation in Early Nineteenth Century Printed Cookery Books’
Joanne Ella Parsons (English, Bath Spa University), ‘Surtees’ ‘Great Guzzling’ Gourmand: Eating, Hunting, and Making Merry in Handley Cross and Jorrocks’ Jaunts and Jollities’
Dr. Sam Goodman (English, Bournemouth University), '"Oh for the want of vegetable food!": Experiences of Hunger and Privation in Indian Mutiny Diaries'

Panel 1B - Aspirational Consumption (H060)
Lesley Steinitz (History, University of Cambridge), ‘The Tales They Told: The Creation of the Healthy Ideal Through Branded Food Advertising, 1890-1918’
Graham Harding (English, University of Cambridge), ‘“A change comes over the spirit of your vision”: Champagne in England, 1860-1944’
Dr. Corinna Peniston-Bird (History, University of Lancaster), ‘“Yes, We had no Bananas”: Sharing Memories of the Second World War’
12.50 – 1.50pm: Lunch (Ground floor corridor)
1.50 - 3.10pm: Session 2
Panel 2A – Interrogating Excess (H058)
Abigail Dennis (English, University of Toronto), ‘Reading About Good Dinners: The Ambivalent Gourmand in Thackeray’s Gustative Writing’
Dr. Jonathan Buckmaster (English, Royal Holloway, University of London), '''I’ll be content to eat my own head, Sir!": Grimwig, Grimaldi and Excessive Consumption in the Dickens Pantomime'
Dr. Charlotte Boyce (English, University of Portsmouth), ‘Onions and Honey, Roast Spiders and Chutney: Unusual Appetites and Idiosyncratic Eating Habits in Edward Lear’s Nonsense Verse’

Panel 2B – (Un)Satisfied Appetites (H060)
Dr. Angelica Michelis (English, Manchester Metropolitan University), ‘Feeding the Vampire: The Ravenous Hunger of the fin de siècle’
Dr. Lesa Scholl (English, University of Queensland), ‘The Rhetoric of Taste: Reform, Hunger and Consumption in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton’
Dr. Paul Vlitos (English, University of Surrey), ‘Supplying the Mob with the Food it Likes’: Taste, Appetite and the Literary Marketplace in George Gissing’s New Grub Street and Will Warburton’
3.10 - 3.25pm: Tea and Coffee Break (Ground floor corridor)
3.25 – 4.25pm: Session 3
Panel 3A – Digesting Social Reform (H058)
Dr. Annemarie McAllister (History, University of Central Lancashire), ‘Temperance Tropes: Sensation, Sentiment and Narrative Legacies’ 
Dr. Lucinda Matthews-Jones (History, Liverpool John Moores University), ‘Eating and Dining at Toynbee Hall, 1885-1914’

Panel 3B – Disrupting Domestic Femininities (H060)
Dr. Emanuela Ettorre (English, University of Chieti-Pescara), ‘Rewriting Women: Thomas Hardy, Food and the Menace of the Impure’
Janine Catalano (Independent Food and Art Historian), ‘An Unrefined Palette: Food, Class and Gender in the Work of Leonora Carrington’
4.25 - 4.40 Comfort break
4.40 - 5.40 Keynote Address II (H052)
Professor Nicola Humble (Roehampton University): Title TBC
5.40 – 5.50pm: Closing Remarks (H052)
5.50 - 6.30pm Drinks Reception (Graduate Space, 4th floor)

Thursday 14 November 2013

Mapp and Lucia and Lobsters

Recently, I’ve I’ve been lucky enough to find the time to delve in the zany, slightly psychotic world of E.F. Benson’s ‘Mapp and Lucia’ series of novels, which begins with Queen Lucia in 1920 and culminates with Trouble for Lucia in 1939. This reading has served duel purposes. In the first instance, it has been my bedtime reading, and laugh-out-loud bedtime reading at that. In the second, as I suspected from reading about Benson’s novels, some of the content has been very useful in terms of one of the chapters of my thesis which I have just finished re-drafting, and so I have been able to make reference to both Mapp and Lucia (1935) and Lucia’s Progress (also 1935) as part of establishing a ‘middlebrow’ literary context for the themes I later go onto discuss in Agatha Christie’s fiction.

Now, I’m not on the pay roll or anything, but... given the choice,
why would you ever buy anything 
other than the Vintage Classics
edition?! No, seriously, why?

For anyone unfamiliar with the overarching premise of the series, ‘Mapp and Lucia’ depicts the vicious social one-upmanship between the odious Miss Elizabeth Mapp and the detestable Mrs. Emmeline Lucas (Lucia). Elizabeth Mapp was the unchallenged social queen of the small, seaside town of Tilling. However, upon her arrival in the town, Lucia, aided by her gay best-friend, Georgie (who, incidentally, she ends up married to at the close of Lucia’s Progress. Are you serious, Benson?!), adroitly sets to work ending Mapp’s reign of terror, so that she may begin her own. Basically, its Mean Girls, but in 1930s England, and, for the record, we are definitely Team Mapp: Lucia is an abominable bitch (and not in the likable way)!

One of Mapp and Lucia’s most pivotal battles is over a recipe: Lobster à la Riseholme. Upon serving this dish to her friends (and Mapp, purely out of social obligation) at a luncheon party, the enigmatic gastronomical sensation, which derives its name from the Cotswold-eqsue village in which Lucia and Georgie used to live, becomes the talk of Tilling for the reason that ‘no one could conjecture how it was made’ (191). Flying in the face of social convention, Lucia simply refuses to disclose the recipe to anyone. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the dish soon becomes the pointiest of the many thorns in Mapp’s side: The dish...

... had long been an agonizing problem to Elizabeth. She had made an attempt at it herself, but the result was not encouraging. She has told Diva and the Padre that she felt sure she had ‘guessed it’, and, when bidden to come to lunch and partake of it, they had both anticipated a great treat. But [...] lobster à la Riseholme à la Mapp had been found to consist of something resembling lumps of india-rubber (so tough that the teeth positively bounced away from them on contact) swimming in a dubious pink gruel, and both of them left a great deal on their plates, concealed as far as possible under their knives and forks[.] (191)

After failing to charm the recipe out of Lucia’s cook (which was an act in vain anyway - it is Lucia herself who always finishes the dish), towards the climax of the novel Mapp sinks to a new low. Having gone out for a walk towards the river on a stormy Boxing Day afternoon, Mapp passes Lucia’s servants who are all on their merry way elsewhere for the afternoon. Thus realising that the kitchen at Grebe is, on this rare occasion, unattended, in a brilliant culinary metaphor on Benson’s part, the thought of sneaking into Lucia’s home and stealing the recipe ‘fructified into apples of Desire’ for Mapp (255). Having entered the kitchen via the back door, the recipe is not at all hard for Mapp to find: ‘There was a prayer book [...] bound in American cloth. [...] Rapidly she turned the leaves, and there manifest at last was the pearl of great price, lobster à la Riseholme. It began with the luscious words, “Take two hen lobsters.” (257) But, uh oh, this being the utterly dippy world of ‘Mapp and Lucia’ - a world in which, as Nicola Humble suggests, ‘the day-to-day minutiae of domestic detail [...] tip over into surrealism’ (60) - what do you think happens next?

[S]he heard with a sudden stoppage of her heart-beat, a step on the crisp path outside, and the handle of the kitchen-door turned. Elizabeth took one step sideways behind the gaudy [Christmas] tree and, peering through its branches, saw Lucia standing at the entrance. Lucia came straight towards her, not yet perceiving that there was a Boxing Day burglar in her own kitchen, and stood admiring her tree. Then with a startled exclamation she called out “Who’s that?” and Elizabeth knew that she was discovered. Further dodging behind the decorated fir would be both undignified and ineffectual, however skillful her foot-work. 

“It’s me, dear Lucia,” she said. “I came to thank you for that delicious pâté and to ask if-” 

From somewhere close outside there came a terrific roar and rush as of great water-floods released. Reunited for the moment by a startled curiosity, they ran together to the open door, and saw, already leaping across the road and over the hornbeam hedge, a solid wall of water. 

“The bank has given way,” cried Lucia. (258)

Yes! The frenemies are carried off to sea aboard the makeshift raft that is Lucia’s overturned kitchen table. Bon voyage, ladies.

Unfortunately, despite the genuinely mouthwatering descriptions of lobster à la Riseholme that we as the reader get within the novel, we, like the luckless Mapp, are never given an actual recipe. However, TimBris83 - a contributor to the online fan forum on Nigella.com - has taken it upon himself to recreate Lucia’s signature dish, much in the style our troubled but beloved domestic goddess, who has herself has displayed a penchant for creating recipes inspired by literary works. For instance, her ‘Mint Julip Peaches’ in Forever Summer (2002), are reported to have been inspired by her reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925). As TimBris83’s recipe seemed both easy and delicious (if pricey), I decided to give it a go, and document the results. The ingredients list is as follows:

Lobster (pref a hen)
4 shallots (very finely chopped)
3 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons marsala
150 ml double cream
2 teaspoons paprika
3 pinches of cayenne pepper
3 handfuls gruyere cheese (grated)
3 tablespoons tomato passata
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of pepper
oil or butter (for frying)

Obviously, this recipe calls for a live lobster, but in deference to the my-one-true-love Lawson (not to mention general wussiness) I decided to take the express route to deliciousness and get it pre-cooked and frozen at the supermarket. The crustacean still had to be prepared (i.e. - meat extracted from shell). On this front, I was expecting it to be worse to be honest, but thanks to this informative youtube tutorial, it was relatively easy (though outrageously messy). Seriously, I found it more of an ordeal to finely chop four shallots, which says a lot about my chopping competency.

Once all of the extracting, grating, chopping, and measuring had been done, the process was really very easy indeed. All I had to do was sauté the shallots over medium heat for about 10 minutes until they were soft and translucent. Then I heated the brandy in another small pan, set it alight with a long cooking match, let the flames die down and then poured the brandy over the softened shallots.  I then added the marsala - an ingredient I has certainly heard of, and vaguely knew was some sort of fortified wine, but had never used before - and let the mixture come to the boil.

Turning the flame onto low, the next step was to bung in the cream, paprika, cayenne, and pasata (not convinced of the authenticity of this, TimBris83, I’m sure Lucia would have had to skin and crush her own tomatoes - but thank God we don’t have to) and heated the mixture for a bit. Then time for the cheese: I added two handfuls of the gruyere I had grated earlier and whisked until smooth. Tasting at this point, I found the mixture a bit bland I have to say, so I threw in some pepper, along with a sprinkling of dried oregano and dried thyme, because, let’s be honest, what exactly isn’t improved with dried oregano and dried thyme. Tasting better now, the lobster meat was added in and warmed through.

Any recipe that suggests the measuring of cheese
in 'handfuls' is OK in my book.

Now, even for something conceived of as a nod to the almost bamboozling campery of ‘Mapp and Lucia’, I do feel that serving this in washed-out lobster shells is, dare I say, I tad too shi shi. As such, my vessel of choice for the final stage of the recipe - the grilling - was two small white gratin dishes. I divided the warm mixture between the two dishes, topped with the remaining handful of cheese, and placed under the preheated grill for a few minutes until the cheese was golden and crusty. Oh, and, although uncalled for by the recipe, I sprinkled the top with chopped parsley, because parsley is delicious and makes everything better (whereas coriander, on the other hand, is a plant that was placed on earth by Satan himself)!

The result: well, it looks lovely, doesn’t it, and it tasted perfectly fine. But that’s all I’m afraid. It’s very rich, very cheesy, but even with my additions, its certainly not packing a punch on the flavour side of things, which, for a recipe whose ingredients costs me - I sob to think - the same as what I get paid for a week’s worth of undergraduate teaching, I was expecting something really special. Probably, its a case of it being just too old fashioned, and not appealing to more modern taste-buds (TimBris83 does indeed admit that his take of Lucia’s dish loosely based on an Escoffier recipe). If I ever had some lobsters knocking about again, I would definitely go for something lighter, fresher, more zingy, more vibrant: something which enhances, rather than over-powers that special lobster flavour. All in all, a nice idea, but a lobster dish which has not stood the test of time quite as well as the quirky interwar novel in which it plays such a pivotal role.


Page references for Mapp and Lucia are to the current (2011) Vintage Classics edition of the novel.
The page reference for Nicola Humble’s comment on the novel is to The Feminine Middlebrow Novel, 1920s to 1950s: Class, Domesticity and Bohemianism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001)
TimBris83’s original recipe for Lobster à la Riseholme can be found here.

Friday 1 November 2013

CFP No more!

That's it folks. The call for papers has now passed. The three of us will be hard at work over the next few weeks, deliberating, and most probably bickering, as we try to sort through all of the fantastic abstracts we have received. We hope to be in touch with everyone who submitted an abstract in the very near future to let them know of our decisions.

Thank you once again to everyone who took the time to submit something to us. We are thrilled that our conference has resonated with the work of so many researchers across a number of different disciplines, and across the globe!

Mary, Laura and Chris

Thursday 24 October 2013

Abstracts: One Week to Go

A big ‘Thank You’ to everyone who has already submitted an abstract, and for all the other messages of support we have received so far. There is one more week to get your abstract in, folks. The deadline is Thursday 31st October 2013 (by 11:59pm, of course). 

More blog posts coming soon (Promise!).