Just a spoonful of soup or so

The King was determined to show that he did not lack for gold and silver, so he drew heavily on his treasury to make these occasions as grand as he thought they ought to be… he decreed that there should be a great sausage banquet, he got into his carriage and himself invited all the kings and princes to what he said would just be a spoonful of soup or so, but that was to make the surprise of the delicacies they were to be served all the nicer. “For you know, my dear,” he said to his wife the Queen, in very friendly tones, “how much I like to eat sausages!”

The Queen knew very well what he meant by that, which was that he wanted her to make the sausages herself, which she had done before, and a very useful task it was too…

Now the trumpets and drums played and all the princes and potentates in their fine clothes came to the sausage banquet, some riding white palfreys, some in crystal coaches. The King welcomed them warmly…but as the liver sausage was served, the King could be seen turning paler and paler, raising his eyes to heaven – faint sighs escaped his breast – he appeared to be suffering some terrible internal pain. And as the next course of blood sausage was served, he sat back in his armchair, sobbing and moaning, covered his face with his hands and wailed and groaned.

The whole company jumped up from the table, the royal physician tried in vain to feel the unfortunate King’s pulse, a deep and nameless grief seemed to be tending him apart. At long last, after much consultation and the application of strong remedies for reviving someone in a faint, such as burnt feathers and the like, the King to some extent came back to his senses, and barely audible, stammered out the words, “Not enough bacon!”

The Tale of The Nutcracker – Hoffman

Jane Eyre vibes

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As every Jane Eyre  fan will know, she insisted on buying grey merino even for her trousseau, but seeing this 1860s crinoline with purple-slashes sleeves makes me think maybe it wasn’t so muted after all. Dress in the Met Institute of Fashion.

Moominpappa abandoned all hope

Once, when Moomintroll was quite small, his father got a cold at the very hottest time of summer. Moominpappa redused to drink warm milk with onion juice and sugar, and he refused to go to bed. He sat in the garden hammock blowing his nose and saying his cigars had a horrible taste…

When his cold became much worse…Moominmamma brought him a substantial rum toddy. Only by then it was too late. The rum toddy tasted just as bad as onion milk, and Moominpappa abandoned all hope and took to his bed in the northern attic room. He had never been ill before and took a very serious view of the matter.

The start of The Memoirs of Moominpappa

It was a good kitchen

The place I like best in this world is the kitchen. No matter where it is, no matter what kind, if it’s a kitchen, if it’s somewhere where they make food, it’s fine with me. Ideally it should be well broken in. Lots of tea towels, dry and immaculate. White tile catching the light (ting! ting!)

So begins Banana Yashimoto’s novella Kitchen, a warmly comforting read about a girl finding happiness again after an unexpected bereavement, and a friendship that grows into more. For someone who also likes hanging out in the kitchen and who enjoyed Luisa Weiss’ kitchen memoirs, this was perfect lazy reading.

The scratching of our pens mingled with the sound of raindrops beginning to fall … 

While he made tea, I explored the kitchen. I took everything in: the good quality of the mat on the wooden floor and Yuichi’s slippers; a practical minimum of well-worn kitchen things, precisely arranged. A Silverstone frying pan and a delightful German-made vegetable peeler…

There were things with special uses like …. porcelain bowls, gratin dishes, gigantic platters, two beer steins. Somehow it was all very satisfying.

I looked  around, nodding and murmuring approvalingly, “Mmm, mmm.” It was a good kitchen. I fell in love with it at first sight.

Good things to eat and plenty of them

There were little new potatoes for dinner, creamed with green peas, and there were string beans and green onions.  And by every plate was a saucer full of sliced ripe tomatoes, to be eaten with sugar and cream.

”Well, we’ve got good things to eat, and plenty of them,” said Pa, taking a second helping of potatoes and peas…

He cut into the pie’s crust with a big spoon, and turned over a big chunk of it onto a plate. The underside was steamed and fluffy. Over it he poured spoonfuls of thin brown gravy, and beside it he laid half a blackbird…The scent of that opened pie was making all their mouths water…As long as the blackbirds lasted, and the garden was green, they could eat like this every day.

Little Town on the Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Rain-washed mountains

“Your father says it’s Gaelic and pronounced Camasunart,” said Mother, “and it’s at the back of beyond, so there you go darling, and have a lovely time for the birds and the – the water, or whatever you said you wanted.”

I sat clutching the receiver, perched there above the roar of Regent Street. Before my mind’s eye rose, cool and remote, a vision of rain-washed mountains.

”D’you know,” I said slowly, “I think I will.”

Gianetta Fox sets off for Scotland in Mary Stewart’s “Wildfire at Midnight”

Cake!

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There was a strange rumour in Highbury of all the little Perry’s being seen with a slice of Mrs Weston’s wedding-cake in their hands: but Mr Woodhouse would never believe it. – “Emma”, Jane Austen

Not at all like Mr Woodhouse as I go to celebrate a friend’s wedding today, partly with a lot of cake.

The top picture is the wonderfully-titled “The Tempting Cake” by Albert Roosenboom.

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And it’s only Wednesday

Harriet’s father was called George Johnson. He had a shop. It was not a usual sort of shop, because what it sold was entirely dependent on what his brother William grew, shot, or caught…

One of the things that was most trying for the whole family was that what would not sell had to be eaten. This made a great deal of trouble because Uncle William had a large appetite and seldom sent more than one of any kind of fish or game…

“What is there for lunch today, Olivia?” George would ask, usually adding politely “Sure to be delicious.” Olivia would answer “There’s enough rabbit for two, there is a very small pike, there is a grouse, but I don’t know about that, it seems very, very old, as if it has been dead for a very long time, and there’s sauerkraut. I’m afraid everybody must eat cabbage of some sort, we’ve had over seven hundred from Uncle William this week, and it’s only Wednesday.”

White Boots by Noel Streatfield. I always like her humour.

Romance

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My love of A Cup of Jo is well known, and the blog’s ability to get a real – and good – conversation going in the comments is next to nothing. That team isn’t smashing it. So it’s no surprise that when Ashley Ford posted there about her love of romance novels it broke the internet.

So many good suggestions! But for those of you looking for an indulgent night in, can I, firstly applaud the sheer genius of a romance novel bookshop called The Ripped Bodice (worth flying to America just for that), and secondly suggest you line up:

– Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series

– Joanna Shupe’s Knickerbocker series

– the Nacho Figueras take on a modern Jilly Cooper

– Alyssa Cole: An extraordinary union

– Ann Calhoun’s Liberating Lacy

– anything by Suzanne Wright or Elle Kennedy

(mum, you should have stopped reading sentences ago…)

“Woman combing her hair” by Joseph DeCamp

Wistful

How beautiful and atmospheric is this Brian Bailey wood engraving for E Nesbit’s The Three Mothers?

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And Nesbit is the perfect comfort read for the Christmas period too as I remember her Psammead series being the bedtime books for quite a few years. I’m still a fan of them.