29 August 2014

Friday's Literary Feast

Quotes from The Virago Book of Food:  The Joy of Eating

1801 - 66

March 1843

Oh, I must tell you, for my uncle's benefit, a domestic catastrophe that occurred last week!  One day, after dinner, I heard Helen lighting the fire, which had gone out, in the room above, with perfectly unexampled vengeance; every stroke of the poker seemed an individual effort of concentrated rage.  What ails the creature now? I said to myself.  Who has incurred her sudden displeasure? or is it the red herring she had for dinner which has disagreed with her stomach? (for in the morning, you much know, when I was ordering the dinner, she had asked, might she have a red herring? 'her heart had been set upon it a good while back:' and, of course, so modest a petition received an unhesitating affirmative).  On her return to the subterranean, the same hubbub wild arose from below, which had just been trying my nerves from above; and when she brought up the tea-tray, she clanked it on the lobby-table, as if she were minded to demolish the whole concern at one fell stroke.  I looked into her face inquiringly as she entered the room, and seeing it black as midnight (morally, that is), I said very coolly, ' A little less noise, if you please; you are getting rather loud upon us.'  She cast up her eyes with the look of a martyr at the stake, as much as to say, 'Well, if I must be quiet, I must; but you little know my wrongs.' By-and-by Geraldine went to the kitchen for some reason; she is oftener in the kitchen in one day that I am in a month, but that is irrelevant.  'Where is the cat?' said she to Helen; 'I have not seen her all night.'  She takes a wonderful, most superfluous charge of the cat, as of everything else in this establishment.  'The cat!' said Helen grimly, 'I have all but killed her.'  'How?' said Geraldine.  'With the besom,' replied the other.  'Why? for goodness' sake.'  'Why?' repeated Helen, bursting out into new rage; 'why indeed?  Because she ate my red herring!  I set it all ready on the end of the dresser, and she ran away with it, and ate it every morsel to the tail - such an unheard of thing for the brute to do.  Oh, if I could have got hold of her, she should not have got off with her life!'  'And have you had no dinner?' asked Geraldine.  'Oh yes, I had mutton enough, but I had just set my heart on a red herring.'  Which was the most derserving of having a besom taken to her, the cat or the woman?



  1. Have you read the Persephone about them (I think it's called The Carlyles at Home? I kind of fell for them!

  2. It's one of my favourites! I stopped at their house in Chelsea a few years ago so naturally I had to buy the book. Being able to picture the rooms, the stairs, and the scullery, made the stories come alive. Jane was quite the writer and waaaay more interesting than her crumbs-in-the-beard husband! Make Cheyne Row a stop if you're ever in London, Audrey!