Karen Robinson, Katherine Whitehorn - Slightly Foxed Issue 24

Six Things to Do with Cabbage

Share this

Transport yourself, dear reader, to the British urban landscape of Larkin’s mythical moment, ‘between the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles’ first LP’. You are young, educated, ambitious, and have moved, alone, to a big city – London, even – eager for the experiences and opportunities your newly acquired adult status and independence dangle tantalizingly before you. Yet as you grapple with the baffling new exigencies of the lowest rungs of the career ladder, you also find yourself lodged in the lowliest form of metropolitan habitation: the bedsitter. You long for excitement and sophistication, but your life looks, feels and very probably smells like a cross between Lucky Jim and The L-Shaped Room.

And you are hungry. Not just metaphorically hungry for life, love, power and glory – you need actual food, to comfort your loneliness, to ease and warm social contact, to nourish the inner man or woman, to warm the heart and fill the belly, to set you up for the life you want. And you have to provide it – buy it, store it, peel it, skin it, fillet it, chop it, cook it, serve it – yourself. ‘Convenience foods’ barely exist, and only in shops that shut at tea-time. Fast food is fish and chips.

But help is at hand in this cheerless and cash-strapped struggle. Never mind sexual intercourse – which, according to Larkin’s teasing line, ‘began in 1963’ – though it might have been a consolation. That year also saw the Penguin paperback publication of Katharine Whitehorn’s Cooking in a Bedsitter, which turned the 1961 McGibbon and Kee hardback with the unpromising title of Kitchen in the Corner into a best-selling handbook for more than one generation of fledgling adults.

It is sensible, practical, brisk, funny and a little bit bossy – but its true genius, which infuses the merely instructional, lies in its recognition that its readers are real people, with hopes and dreams that

Subscribe or sign in to read the full article

The full version of this article is only available to subscribers to Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader’s Quarterly. To continue reading, please sign in or take out a subscription to the quarterly magazine for yourself or as a gift for a fellow booklover. Both gift givers and gift recipients receive access to the full online archive of articles along with many other benefits, such as preferential prices for all books and goods in our online shop and offers from a number of like-minded organizations. Find out more on our subscriptions page.

Subscribe now or

About the contributor

Karen Robinson is supplements editor of the Sunday Times and an enthusiastic cook, provided the recipes aren’t unnecessarily complicated.

Share this

Comments & Reviews

Leave a comment

Customise this page for easy reading

reading mode