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Episode 23: A Writer in the Kitchen

The food writer and chef Olivia Potts joins the Slightly Foxed editors for a literary banquet. Olivia was a barrister for five years before enrolling at Le Cordon Bleu, becoming a cookery columnist on The Spectator and writing A Half Baked Idea, a memoir with recipes. From finding consolation in cooking and precision in pâtisserie to nostalgia-soaked blancmange and family dinners in the Cazalet Chronicles, the conversation flows, welcoming Jane Grigson, Elizabeth David, Charles Dickens and the extraordinary Fanny Cradock to the table along the way. And in this month’s taste from the magazine’s archives, Rachel Khoo’s cookbook conjures up feasts in an attic in Paris.

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Show Notes

Please find links to books, articles, and further reading listed below. The digits in brackets following each listing refer to the minute and second they are mentioned. (Episode duration: 43 minutes; 21 seconds)

Books Mentioned

We may be able to get hold of second-hand copies of the out-of-print titles listed below. Please get in touch with Jess in the Slightly Foxed office for more information.

Frontier Wolf and The Lantern Bearers, Rosemary Sutcliff: Slightly Foxed Cubs (0.50)

Hons and Rebels, Jessica Mitford: Slightly Foxed Edition No. 52 (0.53)

An Englishman’s Commonplace Book, Roger Hudson (1.00)

A Half Baked Idea, Olivia Potts (15:40)

The Little Library Cookbook, The Little Library Year and The Little Library Christmas, Kate Young (21.08)

The Cazelet Chronicles, Elizabeth Jane Howard (22.33)

Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee: Slightly Foxed Edition No. 53 (23:33)

Bel-Ami, Guy de Maupassant (24:18)

Jumping the Queue, Mary Wesley is out of print (25:04)

The Little Paris Kitchen, Rachel Khoo (28:53)

The Diary of a Nobody, George & Weedon Grossmith (35:41)

Good Things to Eat, Lucas Hollweg is out of print (37:53)

The Pedant in the Kitchen, Julian Barnes (39.17)

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt (39:35)

Related Slightly Foxed Articles

Haikus among the Pears, Olivia Potts on Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book, Issue 62

Cooking with a Poet, Sue Gee on Paul Roche, Cooking with a Poet, Issue 8 (1:43)

The Fanny Factor, Laurie Graham on Fanny Cradock, Coping with Christmas, Issue 64 (1:47)

Attics with Attitude, Elisabeth Russell Taylor on Rachel Khoo, The Little Paris Kitchen, Issue 36 (28:53)

At Home with the Pewters, Antony Wood on George & Weedon Grossmith, The Diary of a Nobody, Issue 32 (37:17)

Other Links

– Olivia Potts: Instagram / Twitter

– Olivia Potts’s The Vintage Chef column in Spectator Life (12.50)

FEAST catering by Olivia Potts and Kate Young (21:01)

Opening music: Preludio from Violin Partita No.3 in E Major by Bach
Additional music: French Waltz by Sam Bikov from the album Dance the Night Away via www.freemusicarchive.org
The Slightly Foxed Podcast is hosted by Philippa Lamb and produced by Podcastable

Comments & Reviews

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  1. Kate Harris says:

    Thank you for another wonderful podcast. I feel a frisson of excitement when another SF podcast email pops into my inbox so for the next few minutes I’m transported to your kitchen table where I draw up a chair and listen in, hastily scribbling down the recommended further reading list so I can carry on the joy when the table is cleared of cups, plates and crumbs and guests. Such a joy.
    As a bookseller, I thank you for all you do and look forward with glee to each SF parcel that arrives at Harris & Harris.

  2. Ellen Emerson says:

    Like Kate H, my books-to-read list grew a little longer while listening to the podcast today! And while I haven’t thought to keep a list of great drinking scenes, Gordon Comstock goes on a spectacular bender in Orwell’s Keep the Aspidistra Flying, if I can recommend it for anyone who does keep such a list.

  3. Alix Nicoll says:

    Books with food as a main ingredient are always a delicious reminder than we can’t live without it! I was so hoping that someone would mention Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester – described as a ‘lip smackingly fine repast, richly spiced and superlatively well done’ – the first person character is a food critic with a sinister and cold blooded agenda – I never look at a mushroom without thinking of this novel – rather like taking a shower alone after watching Psycho. Also worth noting, Brunetti’s Cookbook culled from the detective stories of Donna Leon, set in Venice! On that note I can hear my tummy rumbling!

  4. Bridget Patterson says:

    What a joy this was to listen to on a wet and gale-swept afternoon in Suffolk. Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cookery was my mother’s bible, in the days when olive oil could only be bought at Boots. I can’t agree with Olivia that her cookery books were without narrative: there are wonderful anecdotes about the kitchens she visited and the people she met, often with a brisk aside about her own views.
    Of course Olivia’s absolutely right about the consolatory aspect of food; when my father died last year I made a fruit cake for when my sister and I cleared the house. Every so often we stopped for (another) tea or coffee and a slice of cake which restored our spirits. And one of the books I took away with me was the Times cookery book of 1963, in which there is a recipe for Pound Cake. It did indeed require a pound of everything, including eggs, advising “the yolks of 10 and the whites of 5”! Amazingly, there is also a section on Jewish Passover cookery.

  5. Rosemary Raughter says:

    I love reading about food, whether in recipe books, recipe-studded memoirs or novels, and would argue that women, who are usually the people responsible for preparing or overseeing the preparation of meals, write particularly well about it. I think, for instance of Colette (truffles, wine and cheese in the good times, boiled chestnuts and swede tart during the Occupation), or the Provincial Lady, eking out the depleted joint to feed Our Vicar’s Wife who’s stayed to ‘luncheon’, or mortified by the stale cake Cook sends up when Lady B arrives at teatime. Another author who’s wonderful on food is Barbara Pym, with her descriptions of those genteel and frugal post-war meals – all poached eggs on toast, macaroni cheese, a small piece of fish – with something much more sustaining when the archdeacon comes to dinner (‘men must have meat’). Thank you so much for a really entertaining and thought-provoking podcast, which reminded me of old favourites, and prompted yet more additions to my ever-growing ‘must read’ list.

  6. Penny Aldred says:

    Not all Fanny Cradock’s recipes were disasters. I have one for Marsala ice cream, in a 1967 BBC publication, Ten Classic Dishes, (price 2s 6d), which is both easy and delicious. I saw her give a cookery demonstration in Nottingham in the mid 1950s. She wore no apron, and wiped her greasy hands on her ballgown. You have to remember that it was a different world when she first became known as a cook. Food rationing was only just ending, and ‘foreign dishes’ were unknown. We have to thank her, as well as Elizabeth David and Rosemary Hume, for helping to change all that.

  7. Laurie Hannah says:

    Hello all, I have been listening to your podcasts for about 6 months. I love them so much recommend them whenever I get the chance. I listen to them completely out of order, so I just stumbled on this one today. Besides laughing out loud during the section on Elizabeth Craddock, I enjoyed the discussion of food appearing in fiction. I wanted to recommend a book that it on my all-time favorites list, as it is a beautiful depiction of how people get through grief by cooking. It is called Birds in Fall by Brad Kessler. Besides being a poignant, atmospheric read, the recipes described were delicious, and we served some of them for our book club discussion dinner. It was a wonderful evening, similar to the supper club idea mentioned in the podcast. Thank you for your delight and enthusiasm, it makes my day each time I listen.

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