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The Country Life Cookery Book

by Ambrose Heath
Persephone book no:

108 109 110


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A Well Full of Leaves
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ILLUSTRATED BY ERIC RAVILIOUS / PREFACE BY SIMON HOPKINSON
248pp
ISBN 9781903155998

The Country Life Cookery Book was written by Ambrose Heath and illustrated by Eric Ravilious in 1937. It is an excellent cookery book, set out in twelve chapters, one for each month of the year, with some extra sections on ‘A Few River Fish’, ‘Herbs in the Kitchen’ and ‘A Calendar of Home-Grown Vegetables’. This last is especially useful for Persephone readers who grow their own vegetables or have an organic box delivered as it is a quick way of looking up what should be in season.

And naturally the recipes are seasonal too. As Simon Hopkinson, the well-known chef and cookery writer, says in his new Preface: ‘Seasonal is simply how it was. Those of my parents’ generation, as well as that of Mr Heath, knew nothing else other than, say, the purchase of a pound of leeks from the greengrocer in winter, followed by no leeks at all, all summer long.’ And, he continues, ‘seasonal cookery writing is all the rage, now, but this was not always so. Nobody worth their salt would now dream of giving a recipe for asparagus in November, yet it was seen as the height of sophistication to be served the same vegetable imported from California in smart London restaurants throughout the 1970s.’

Something else that Simon Hopkinson admires is the Englishness of The Country Life Cookery Book. Ambrose Heath’s voice was ‘entirely that of a homegrown enthusiast. An intellect and ingenuity, thrift and humour, good taste and provenance, together with a charming indifference to a majority of precise measurements or timings, quite delight this present day reader. I would give anything to be allowed to compose recipes this way, this day, for a cookery book – and to have the beautiful engravings of Eric Ravilious as decoration throughout just as a wistful reverie.’

For, indeed, the other reason for reprinting this book, apart from the usefulness of the recipes, is that it has a dozen delightful Ravilious illustrations with which most people will be unfamiliar (this cookery book has never been reprinted before and secondhand copies are fiendishly expensive.)

Endpaper

Endpapers taken from an early 1930s design for a textile by Josef Hillerbrand for Morton Sundour.


Read What Readers Say

Bee Wilson, ‘The Telegraph’

It's interesting to see which ingredients are considered so crucial – or so easily messed up – that they need to be specified. ‘The Country Life Cookery Book’ is a lovely 1937 collection of seasonal food by Ambrose Heath. Where modern writers tend to specify butter, salt and eggs, Heath was most anxious about fines herbes, which he considered vital to green salad as well as omelette. He insists that fines herbes does not mean just chopped onion and parsley but is a finely chopped mixture of "parsley, chives, chervil and tarragon”

Miss Bibliophile (blogger)

I've steered away from Persephone’s non-fiction books on cooking or home-keeping, but ‘The Country Life Cookery Book’ spoke to me because of the way it features recipes broken down according to season. It’s a very different kind of cookbook from the modern-day ones that clutter my kitchen, and there are recipes for some dishes that I would never dream of preparing today, but there are also a fair amount that I can actually see myself trying. And as a bonus, each chapter is illustrated with drawings by Eric Ravilious, an artist whose work I’m always interested in seeing.

Church Times

If you enjoy a cookery book that appeals to both memory and the imagination, ‘The Country Life Cookery Book’, first published in 1937 and now reprinted, is a treat. It has delightful wood engravings by Eric Ravilious, and takes the reader month by month through the year

Categories: Cookery Books Men (books by)

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