Cooking with a Poet

Share this

In the spring of 2001 I was browsing through PEN’s ‘News of Members’, an often diverting page or two at the back of their quarterly bulletin. Amidst announcements of any number of new novels, prizes, plays and fellowships, not to mention Fay Weldon’s elevation to Companion of the British Empire, lay this:

Paul Roche has the following privately printed books available: Cooking with a Poet, More Cooking with a Poet, New Tales from Aesop and Fifty Poems.

There followed an address in Majorca. I, a hopeless cook, was alert at once. Cooking with a poet! Why should one ever wish to cook with anyone else? And was this, moreover, the Paul Roche of whom I had been reading in Frances Spalding’s excellent life of Duncan Grant? Roche had been Grant’s close friend and helpmeet for many years (though not, for once, his lover), seeing him through to his death at a great age in 1978. Grant had painted him, in 1949. Could this really be he? I wrote the next day.

Soon, there came to the house a charming letter, a photograph of ‘my paradise of a small garden’ and a parcel of some of the most enchanting volumes I had ever seen. Printed in India (of which more below), they were bound in sari cloth, each in a different rich colour and pattern, and each embossed in gold. They smelled slightly musty, as if they had been stored in someone’s cellar. A number of typographical errors had been elegantly corrected with the author’s fountain pen, and each volume autographed in the same lovely hand. Finally, these little books turned out to contain not just recipes – Onion Soup without the Fuss, Dandelion Wine, Mincemeat Tel Aviv – but a selection of poems and the hugely entertaining story of the author’s life.

And yes, of

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

Sue Gee’s novel The Mysteries of Glass was long-listed for the 2005 Orange Prize.

Share this

Comments & Reviews

Leave a comment

Customise this page for easy reading

Distraction-free
reading mode