Mrs. Dalloway’s Dinner

bloomsbury_cover.jpgWho knew the Bloomsbury Group was known for its discernible palate and not just its literary taste? The Bloomsbury Cookbook: Recipes for Life, Love and Art (Thames & Hudson, $39.95), a new book by Jan Ondaatje Rolls, looks at E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Lytton Strachey, Roger Fry, and others in their literary set from a culinary point of view--perhaps the only view not yet explored. As Anne Chisholm writes in the foreword, “Jan Ondaatje Rolls has indeed found a way to cast new light onto Bloomsbury, not by yet again re-examining their personal or professional lives or analyzing their emotions, but by walking into their kitchens and dining rooms, unearthing their cookbooks, trying out their recipes (even the less tempting ones) and, above all, by immersing herself in their writings and paintings. She has followed the scent of cooking through novels, diaries, letters and memoirs...”

If you wish to make Mrs. Dalloway’s dinner, for example, listed here are the ingredients and directions for cucumber vichyssoise, mayonnaise of cold salmon, chicken in aspic, chocolate ice cream, and homemade gateau de pommes. Among the other nearly 300 recipes are Strachey’s rice pudding, Vita’s [Vita Sackville-West] magnificent Strasbourg pie, Monk’s House tea, Hogarth Eccles cakes, Armistice chocolate cream, and marrow and ginger jam.

It’s a fresh approach, and one that appeals to both cookbook enthusiasts and lovers of Edwardian and WWI-era English literature. Plus, the book itself is lovely--a generous hardcover with purple endpapers and a ribbon marker, featuring 165 illustrations of artwork by those in the Bloomsbury circle, photographs of them, and original art by British designer (and granddaughter of Vanessa Bell), Cressida Bell.

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