A recipe book for Hygge Book Thursday. This one is about 8 years old, but will be forever ageless because it has a vintage, nostalgic feel about it.
Jane Brocket used to blog under the name Yarnstorm. She was (and still is) a heroine of the blogging world, who managed to move seamlessly from writing about the minutiae of daily life on her blog to writing about the minutiae of life in her books. Her first book, The Gentle Art of Domesticity was and still is one of my favourites to thumb through and be gently inspired by. Even now, when I am as far away from domesticity for 8 hours of the day as you can be, I still aspire to be a Lady Who Lunches, or to have the dexterity and patience to knit socks. No, I don’t knit my own socks.
Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer was her second book, and took its inspiration from the classics of children’s literature that I grew up with. It’s out of print now, sadly, but you can find copies secondhand on Amazon or Abebooks. It’s a nostalgic look at the food that fuelled so many childhood heroes. The Famous Five, The Chronicles of Narnia, Milly Molly Mandy… Jane takes them all and looks at the food within. In the introduction she says,
“I like to think that readers will be whisked off to discover (or rediscover) another time and place before being returned to the kitchen and to the joys and pleasures of home baking.”
The recipes are organised by time of day and the occasion, so chapters include ‘Breakfast’, ‘Proper Elevenses’, ‘Picnic Treats’ and ‘School Food’.
Each chapter opens with a short essay, Jane’s thoughts on what that aspect of food means to her, and which books she’s focused on. Even if you weren’t a baker (or were a sporadic one like me) the introductions are beautifully written and full of nostalgia, a hearkening back to the days of food made to be eaten guilt free with friends and family. Do you see why I chose this as a hygge book? In the chapter on ‘Proper Elevenses’ Jane writes “Elevenses is a quintessentially British ritual and one that I, like Winnie-the-Pooh and Hobbits, am very keen to uphold… (it) assumes a certain amount has been accomplished thus far in the day, and is the opportunity to share a light treat, a drink and some companionable chat, preferably about the merits of biscuits or buns or cakes, or some such desultory topic of conversation.” Isn’t that Hygge? Bronte Aurell (heroine) would say the same about Fika… except it’s not British.
The illustrations are all in black and white, and taken from the books featured. Again, that leads to a heavy nostalgia feeling, since they take one back to days of summer, when snuggling down with a book and a biscuit was often the best thing to do on a cold, wet August Wednesday in a Caravan at Westward Ho!.
And many of them are hygge classics as well. In the Tea-Time section, Jane writes at length of the (infamous) famous tea that Mr Tumnus gives to Lucy as part of his abduction. She writes of the illustration,
Just look at the details here. The small, crowded but neat room, the softly glowing light emanating from the lamp, the large kettle by the fire. The dresser filled with reassuringly ordinary crockery, teapots and tureens to suggest someone who enjoys cooking and eating, the full bookshelves of a keen reader. The little eggs in eggcups on the floor, the comfy armchairs, the table set with tea things and a rather splendid-looking “sugar-topped cake”. And, above all, a generously large, blazing fire for making toast.
I could go on for hours, and I haven’t even begun to list the treats inside the book. Rock cakes, marmalade roll, proper boiled eggs with a twist of salt, cherry cakes, pineapple cake, a proper explanation of what jumbles are that will finally make perfect sense to any fan of ‘What Katy Did at School’, the list is (not quite but feels like it is) almost endless. I have made many of them at home, with the children, indulging in long hours of baking at holiday time and we’ve eaten and enjoyed them as well. But this book is so much more than the sum of the recipes. I keep this book next to my bed, with good reason. It is like a trip to the bookshop of my childhood, a shuffle through memories of places and people I know, oh so very well, through hours of reading. If you were a voracious reader as a child then please, grab a copy and indulge in a sweet treat of nostalgia. If you weren’t a reader, but you enjoy old-fashioned sweet treats, then grab a copy and work your way through the recipes. I’ve never made a dud one yet.
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