On Saturday, 14th of May, Fox & Squirrel friends and family had the pure joy of heading on a walk through Bloomsbury guided by the lovely Kate Young. For those of you who do not know, Kate is a chef and writer. Her blog, The Little Library Cafe, is popular among literary types and followers of London’s burgeoning food scene. On her site she shares recipes inspired by her favourite books. Easy recipes and inspiring quotes are complimented with beautiful shoot images. As a result Kate’s blog either make you want to cook in order to read, or read in order to cook.
Her walking route was inspired by her work. She devised a tour through Bloomsbury that examined the intermingling relationship between food and literature, and demonstrated the ways that this has changed through time, arguably demonstrating a change in London’s evolutionary existence through time. Referencing authors writing in Victorian England up to the post war period, Kate was able to narrate the history of London from the Industrial revolution, the two World Wars, the interwar period and London under rationing.
Stop 1: Stop 1 : Gray’s Inn, Great Hall
In the Great Hall barristers and pupils have gathered for celebratory dinners for many centuries. On a December nigh in 1594 the Lord Chamberlain’s men (including Shakespeare, we think) performed The Comedy of Errors. Performed before a riotous assembly of notable in such disorder the affair became known as the Night of Errors. Subsequently a mock trial was held to arraign the culprit.
As Kate said there are innumerable references to food in Shakespeare that are used as a symbol of wealth and of passion. Feasts, dances and banquets were common as they are easy scenes to stage, where all character would realistically come together.
Kate’s Shakespeare inspired recipe can be found here
Stop 2: Lincoln’s Inn
The land of lawyers and near to where Charle’s Dickens first worked as a lawyer’s clerk in the 1820s. Here, he amused himself by spitting cherry stones from the windows on to the heads of passers-by. The legal lands of Chancery Lane, Lincoln’s Inn and the other Inns of Court figure greatly in his novels, most notably in Bleak House. His closest friend, John Forster, lived at 58 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It is this house that Dickens gave to the sinister lawyer Mr Tulkinghorn, and where he had him murdered.
Here, Kate referenced the Christmas meal in A Christmas Carol by Dickens, as an example of how Dickens passed commentary on social inequality in Victorian London.
A Christmas Carol is not the first book to be published that explores the Christmas season, however, it has made a measurable contribution to our celebration of the season.
Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were Turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausage, mince -pies, plum puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry- cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dime with their delicious steam.
Stop3: The Langham
Here Oscar Wild and Arthur Conan Doyle dined with the publisher of Lippincott’s Magazine on 30 August 1889. In Wilde’s famous play The Importance of Being Earnest the characters eat almost constantly in the play. They eat when in conflict, Algernon eats all the cucumber sandwiches in one scene, and the tension between Gwendolyn and Cecily come to head over cake in another.
Recipe: Chocolate Fudge Cake, The Importance of Being Earnest
Stop 4: 63 Portland Place
Where Frances Hodgson Burnett lived, author of A Little Princess and The Secret Garden. The late 19th & 20th century was known as the Golden Age of Children’s literature: starting with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In literature written for children it is interesting to note that so much food is comforting, nurturing and consumed for pleasure.
Stop 5: Tavistock Square
Kate’s recipe, Dover Sole, inspired by a Room of One’s Own