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Thursday, August 19, 2021

Day 7

I don’t quite know where the last week has gone, though during a conversation with a dear friend this morning, it was commented how I’ve obviously been spending my days “adventuring down rabbit warrens.” Today, however, I stepped out of the house (for longer than the allowed hour for exercise) and was called upon to become an essential worker: helping to prepare and pack a thousand meals for students in lockdown. It’s the closest I’ve reached to catching the cooking or baking bug this time around. During the last lockdown I explored various Mrs. Beeton recipes and perfected my hot water crust pastry (and of course, like every other person in lockdown, started a sourdough starter; his name was Silas). I also tried my hand at a few recipes from a curious little book I was given by another dear friend: Venus in the Kitchen or Love’s Cookery Book by Pilaff Bey (pseudonym, Norman Douglas; 1952). Published as a collection of recipes collected over a twelve year period “one by one, for the private use and benefit of a small group of friends, most of whom … are older than they want to be...", Douglas’ idea for the book was conceived during a dinner party. Where after a few bottles of wine the conversation turned to the “bitter lamentations on the part of the older members of the party over their declining vigour, in the course of which one of them remarked: ‘Something might be done in the way of culinary recipes,’ adding that a well-known authority, Liebault, had written upon the rejuvenating effects of certain condiments and certain dishes.” The recipes are written as short paragraphs usually consisting of a brief history or anecdotal remark, before detailing the method and ingredients as required - often needing a bit of dissecting and a degree in culinary arts. The most peculiar recipes include ‘Marrow of leopard’, ‘Sucking-pig with eels’ and a ‘Salad rocket’ - which calls for rocket, half a lettuce and a clove of chopped garlic, seasoned. One recipe, under the drinks section, is ‘Hydromel’ which requires the mixture to be “stirred by your slaves for a long time” and be left out for “forty days and forty nights.” Let’s hope lockdown doesn’t resort to that.