“What’s for lunch the lady cried:
I feel a vacuum here inside” Anon
Last week when sorting out books etc to go to Mary Potter Hospice for sale in their shop I came across another, not quite so old book – 1966, that has had me in bursts of laughter ever since.
This is a hilarious take against the plethora of large, expensive cookery books that were coming onto the market at the time. And yes, I do have some but my late husband thought this one would bring us all back to the real world.
The book is roughly separated into the various mealtimes, Le Fifoclock ( which according to Peter Evans is what the French call afternoon tea) and any excuse for food at any other time during the day or night.
He introduces us to the Impossible Person at lunch.
According to the writer “She is so old that there are some who believe she should be preserved for the nation as an Ancient Monument (and others who feel she should have been scheduled for demolition years ago)”. Did he have me in mind when he penned this description, knowing how I would turn out some 45 years later?
She is portrayed as an archeologist “of great distinction who still rides a camel into the field…” It is claimed that she has had rows with every eminent archeologist, believing as she does in her own worth and unassailability. Her manners are appalling; she spills food down her clothes and makes ghastly noises when eating; she considers herself an expert and holds forth on any and every topic, interrupting others ; flicks ash all over the carpet (this was in 1966 remember) and totally discounts any opinion but her own. The perfect guest for lunch.
Oh I do hope that this isn’t how he would see me in the years to come.
We are told that she announces her arrival for lunch by telegram delivered the day before. What no email or cellphones? So you could get out of having her to lunch but she would only descend again later. You may as well get it over with.
Our author further describes her as a glutton and on occasion food has even been known to put her in a good mood – whatever that may mean. So he decides to feed her Boeuf en Danube saying that his recipe will feed four hungry archeologists.
2lbs stewing steak cubed
strip orange rind
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 sticks celery chopped
3 cloves garlic, a bay leaf
Pint of red bordeaux
12 small onions
6 carrots chopped
4oz bacon and seasoning.
Put steak, to marinade in wine, vinegar, seasonings, bay leaf and orange rind for several hours. Heat bacon and brown onions, carrots and celery in fat. Remove orange rind from meat. Add meat to the vegetables and fry for 5 minutes. Add marinade. cover the pan and simmer for four hours. Serve with plain boiled rice in which you have mixed peas and shreds of crisply fried onion.
And here is an up to date recipe that I have tried using a slow cooker, but I think I prefer the original.
Our author suggest this be followed by apricot mousse served with stewed fresh apricots and thin cream.
I think even the impossible person would be happy to sit down to such a meal.
And who would you invite to share the table? Seven others to make a total of 8; a good number to seat at a round table.
- Sir Noel Coward to pay her compliments, butter her up and then later put her into one of his clever songs.
- Sir Michael Caine to bring her down to earth and remind her where her roots are.
- Angela Lansbury to make sure all is calm and in the event of a murder she will be on the spot.
- Mahatma Gandi to pour oil on any troubled waters.
- Judith Martin aka Miss Manners to show this character how it’s done.
- Eleanor Bron, actress who can debate her choice of career with the impossible person.
- John Cleese at his Fawlty Towers best to bring some much needed humour to this lunch party.
I went to a marvelous party,
I must say the fun was intense,
We all had to do
What the people we knew
Would be doing a hundred years hence…
From I went to a Marvellous Party,
Sir Noel Coward
- Today I Made Soup (growingyoungereachday.wordpress.com)
- And It’s Raining (growingyoungereachday.wordpress.com)
I love this post, and the recipe. I recently played a round of “who would you invite to dinner” with family and friends. I chose my mother (deceased, but the funniest woman I ever knew), Jesus, Ernest Hemingway, George Carlin, Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, and Marie Curie.
It’s so interesting to hear who people would invite. And are you planning just to serve the food or will you sit down and join them
How funny! Very interesting approach to marketing a cookbook… 🙂
Oh I certainly plan to share more of this book with you.
As soon as I saw the beef recipe, it reminded me to go turn my crock pot on!
I love old books like this! What a character the author is! And ya know, there probably is someone like that woman he described out there somewhere in the world. He was probably describing an old school teacher he had once!
When I read your comment I immediately thought back to the headmistress at school. Her name was Dr Hunt and we all (500 girls) went in total fear and trepidation around her. She was the final arbiter in all things. So perhaps the author did know her in real life.
Marvelous post – humour, a yummy recipe, and Noel Coward quotes ;D Thanks for linking uip t my creation blog hop. Shah. X
As it’s winter here the recipe has been used on more than one occasion.
This is so funny. There are people like that. I met her at my aunt’s table for lunch. She (her, not my gracious, diplomatic aunt) taught Latin for 40 years and even inspected the kitchen insisting that any drops of water be completely dried off the counters and from the sink. My aunt taught me patience and a certain degree of understanding in inviting her. She was in a word insufferable. If you know a bit of Spanish I would love to share what Lupe, my aunt’s maid of 50+ years (the sweetest, gentlest and most endearing woman) said about her. On second thought take this and drop it into Google translator from Spanish to English. Lupe: “¡Yo no sé por qué tu tía se puso con esa mujer!” Now that was strong coming from Lupe.
I second your aunt’s maid. Why do we put up with these insufferable people?
I’m always thinking abour that dinner party perfect guest list. It’s a great game. Say you say 8 artists or politicians etc. See who you come up with
May I get back to you on this. I think 8 politicians sitting around a table might make digestion difficult.
Love old books, and this one sounds like a doozy! Enjoyed your excerpts and that recipe actually sounds like one I might try when the weather gets cooler.
Do try it Susan. We all love it.
Oh my goodness!! I saw Eleanor Bron with the Beatles in “HELP!” How cool to find a friend who knows of her!!
have you seen this clip on YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcTNWehOn5I. Fabulous.
A book of recipes and humor? Perfection!
This was funny, Judith. I think I’d like to have the author at my dinner table.
Oh dear I completely overlooked him. I am sure he would have lifted the humor count. I plan to share some other snippets from this book.
I love your guest list! Wouldn’t it be fun to be a fly on the wall at that dinner party? The tricky part is knowing who to sit next to whom.
k8edid had some interesting dinner guest suggestions as well!
A fly on the wall hum. But didn’t you notice there were only 7 guests. I would be no 8. So I should be privy to all the conversations around the table. I think I should allow them to choose who sat beside whom. that would be most interesting.
I have just read my reply which doesn’t make sense as if I were to be included we would have a party of 9 – so I shall just serve the food and listen intently to the conversation
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Sounds like a FUN read.
As far as the impossible person . . . guess who’s NOT coming to dinner (at our house, anyway)!
But sometimes Nancy we need impossible people to remind us how ‘perfect’ we are!
Funny, thanks for sharing, Judith.
Over the years it has obviously been well read as it is falling apart. But I had forgotten all about it until last week as I said. So watch this space – more to come.
I love it! Cookbooks like that are like reading a novel with the bonus of recipes!
Many moons ago I had a favourite book that was a novel interspersed with recipes. Alas in all the moves it has been misplaced and I can no longer even remember it’s title.
Looks like an entertaining cookbook (I never imagined there was such a thing!)
Well yes it is and as I said to SuziCate above I had another favourite – novel with recipes. But they are few and far between I have to agree.
i loved the idea of the impossible person at lunch hoping it wasn’t me. Still it gave me the chance to dream up awful guests you might have, apart from me of course
Well I had my doubts thinking it might have been me. But I am happy to stand aside and let you have the honour!
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