Sunday, 10 March 2013

Another Reading Feast

Having spent many years bewildered by the lack of publicity received by the writer Jane Gardam, I rather rashly offered to do a 1p review of something by her for the Dabbler the other day. As a result, I'm rereading her collection of short stories, Going into a House Darkly and I've just come across a great food passage that I really ought to have included in this post, had I remembered it.

It is part of a story about a woman who is trying to prepare a very bright young Swiss boy for a Common Entrance exam, which includes an imaginative essay element. They boy appears to have no imagination and the English relatives with whom he lives cook nothing but baked beans - usually burnt.  The teacher decides to invite him to lunch and give him really good food, in the hope that it may 'unlock one shred of his soul'.

This is what she gives him:

"We had ... little lemon soles, hot and curly and light and crisp, in breadcrumbs and with lemon juice. Then we had sirloin of Scotch beef, not en croute but just as juicy; and green vegetables and small carrots with parsley butter and chopped, uncooked onion. The potatoes ... I parboiled and then shoved far back in the top of the oven for seventeen minutes in hot olive oil ... [They] came out of the Aga like golden, crunchy, soft-centred flowers. Then we had redcurrant water ice, the redcurrants from Rusham Farm, and for the damson tart a jug of cream from Solley's Farm at Worth, thick and yellow. The cheeses were Cheddar - I'd spent a long time choosing the finest of five good ones - a local chevre and a perfect double Gloucester.

The pastry for the tart was the best I had ever made. I'd iced the knife as well as the water and the bowl. It was crisp but flaky. Almost transparent. The damsons sat darkly inside it basking in a congealing sticky lake of crimson juice and sprinkled with hard brown sugar. They looked comfortable as fat black ladies in a spa."

She also gives him tea, which I will save for tomorrow.


  1. Jane is a lovely lady who I used to know when we lived in the same town, very under-rated I feel