This is a collection of some of the very best writing about food of the last hundred years, edited and introduced by Clarissa Dickson Wright. I’m a big fan of Clarissa – you can read the biography I wrote about her a while back.
It’s one of my all time favourite foodie books and is perfect for dipping into from time to time for a bit of education and entertainment. I’d meant to write about this book before, but somehow never got around to it. And there I was again dipping into it today when I found this irresistible snippet written by George Lassalle on the subject of the truly awful canapés one finds at many official functions.
I well remember (when I was working at a foreign embassy in London in the late 1940s) a reception at which a famous caterer had excelled himself with his piping bag and in the construction of every known shape in aspic geometry. Unfortunately, so crowded was the scene that very few people could, without drawing unwelcome attention to themselves, partake of the jewelled morsels. Also, a great deal of the food was cunningly placed as to be quite out of reach. When I pointed this out to a waiter (supplied by the caterer) he gave me a solemn wink such as one expects to see on the impassive face of a hired mourner at a Connemara funeral, and said, “It’s all in the game, sir.” I was was too busy then to take the matter further, but later, when all the guests had left and the fragments (of which there were considerably more than twelve baskets) had been packed up and taken away, it occurred to me that a study of the migratory habits of canapé in diplomatic circles might be of some interest. On a subsequent occasion, therefore, I conspired with friends to mark a number of canapé with golf tees, embedding them deep in the aspic so they appeared to be part of the decoration. These peregrinating canapé were later sighted at various receptions around London, and for a week or two provided an “in” joke which relieved the tedium of these pointless functions.
Having (in a previous life) been obliged to attend many of these “pointless functions” I couldn’t agree more. Not only did it appear that identical food was served at every one, it was all horribly dated stuff too. Presumably it came out of a recipe book the ambassador’s chefs had been using since the days of the Raj. Oh dear.
What we eat and how we eat
Clarissa Dickson Wright
Hardback, 320 pages
1999, Ebury Press