After going to our usual weekend haunt we spent the rest of hot and sunny Sunday in our garden. The kids enjoyed being chased by M who was armed with a lengthy garden hose, whilst I sat and read a lovely book called Memories with Food at Gipsy House by Felicity and Roald Dahl. I found it a while back in a second hand bookshop in The Hague and simply couldn't believe my luck. I had seen some on offer second hand on the internet for the most ludicrous amounts of money ($99!), but I paid €20 which is a good price and money well spent.
What a charming book it is. Full of rather old-fashioned food photography, equally old-fashioned - I mean traditional recipes, and stories of family gatherings at Gipsy House, the place Dahl lived until his death in 1990. The section in which Dahl bemoans children's parties is very amusing, as well as stories of his eccentric sisters, particularly the eldest called Alf, who: "smoked cigarettes and drank champagne out of her shoe and danced on table-tops and got out of bed late in the mornings" and then "married a man even more eccentric than she was (...) who had no job and didn't want one. (...) They lived in great frugality on a tiny amount of capital, and their interests were in gardening and eighteenth-century architecture." He also tells the poignant story of his beloved step-daughter Lorina who died of cancer at just twenty-seven, making it a book which appeals not only to the senses (food in lovely surroundings) but the emotions too.
A nice touch is that he praises the Dutch for their friendliness and delicious 'Arnhem Cookies' or Arnhemse Meisjes as they are called here (apparently - I've never laid eyes on them, but then I'm not from Arnhem).
There are a number of recipes I want to try, namely one called Gipsy House Almond Tart, as well as the aforementioned biscuits mysteriously named Arnhem Cookies. When I've done so, I will let you know the result.
|No Roald Dahl book would be complete without illustrations by Quentin Blake|
Don't forget to check out what other folks are reading this month over at The Year in Books