SMITH - GOLDEN AGE OF BRITISH COOKERY
& COOKING ARTICLE
British Library and Delia Smith celebrate the Golden
Age of British Cookery
the help of Britain's favourite cook, who has often
spoken of the debt she owes to the great cookery writers
of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries, the British
Library has created a unique exhibition from its collection
of influential cookery books from the golden period
of British cookery.
on roasting coffee, taken from the book adopted
by BBC Books for Delia Smith, Eliza Acton's
exhibition, Eating In: The Delia Collection,
has been co-curated by Delia Smith, and runs from Friday
27th February until Tuesday 25th May 2004.
a young cook, Delia spent hours in the British Museum
reading room re-discovering traditional recipes, such
as those of Nineteenth century writer Eliza Acton, and
honing her techniques. Earlier this year, to celebrate
her thirty years with the BBC, her publisher BBC Books
adopted Eliza Acton's Modern Cookery (1846) from the
collection on her behalf as part of the Library's Adopt-a-book
scheme (see image on right).
exhibition will be on display in the entrance hall of
the British Library and is open to the public free of
charge. Visiting hours are:
collection is timed to coincide with the publication
of the two new titles in The Delia Collection:
has huge affection for the British Museum Reading Room,
which she visited regularly for 18 months as a young
cook, researching traditional English recipes including
those of her favourite cookery writer, Eliza Acton.
She spent the morning at the British Library recently
to record some of her thoughts for the British Library
Sound Archive, and to provide captions for the exhibition
of 18th and 19th century cookery books that she is co-curating.
It opens for four months from 27th February 2004 (see
attached Press Release). While there, she talked to
the British Library's food expert, Dr Polly Russell,
about her early days as a cookery writer, and her love
of British produce and cuisine.
you talk about your previous connection to the British
Library and how that came about?
was working in a little French restaurant in London
and one day I was talking to one of the customers,
who was an historian, and I said to him "I'm
desperate to learn to cook". He said "if
you look into your history books, you will find that
the British were cooking better than any other country
in the world in the 18th century" and said I
could get a ticket to go into the Reading Room at
the British Museum. So I did that and I found it was
quite easy and quite amazing that I could actually
walk into this beautiful library and book a little
desk and then go and ask for these books to be delivered.
you summarise what these books taught you?
acquired a wonderful grounding in cookery and also
some really good recipes. I collected about four little
exercise books full of these recipes. At that time
I'd moved on from the restaurant and was preparing
food for private dinner parties, and sometimes I would
ask the people if they would mind trying out an 18th
century meal, which they were happy to do.
do you admire so much about 19th century writers such
as Eliza Acton?
think it was the best period when we had the best
ingredients and the best produce because we live in
a group of islands that's able to produce it all.
We still have, to this day, fantastic produce. Eliza
Acton has an awful lot of really good advice. I think
she's the best writer of recipes in the English language
and I've learnt many things from her. I think she
had an understanding and a simplicity and the older
I get, the more simplicity appeals.
would you describe what home cookery is to you?
me, home cooking is always a hundred times better
than anything you can have in a restaurant. The only
place you can find good British cooking is in the
home. You can't have a good steak and kidney pudding
in a restaurant, which I think is one of the great
delicacies. To me, cooking at home is the essence
of British cooking.
books, like the Hannah Glasse and Eliza Acton, emphasise
how food is part of life's great pleasures but there's
also this undercurrent about health.
you were Eliza Acton, or Hannah Glasse, you had square
meals, but you didn't have the chocolate bars and
bags of crisps that we have now. So really, if you
were to go back and take all that away, in fact we
were healthier. I don't advocate using double cream
every day and I don't advocate having a chicken plastered
in butter every day, but when I do cook a chicken,
I want butter on it! I believe obesity problems come
mainly from an addiction to sugar, so although I love
puddings and I love sweet things, at home we've had
a tradition of only having anything sweet at the weekends,
but then having something really fantastic. We need
sweet things in life so long as it's not over-emphasised.
with the kind permission of the BBC 2004
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