Gold nuggets

“Kitchen Essays”
Agnes Jekyll (Persephone Books)

Anyone who suspects most food writing is done by software these days will feel vindicated by this reprint of very pithy pieces from The Times of London, originally run off the presses in 1922. Agnes Jekyll, “an artist-housekeeper” who lived from 1860 to 1937, clearly had no access to FoodPerfect6, and the 35 short essays in this collection almost sing with originality.

My copy, a Christmas gift, has yellow Postits on every third page. A few flag recipes that sound either surprisingly contemporary, like polenta au gratin, or profoundly lyrical, like the sole a la Dorothea served with a “suspicion” of tomato sauce and “a certainty” of mushrooms.

But many more are marked just for Jekyll’s trenchant observations:

“Marriage feasts resemble the institution they celebrate, of which Montaigne observed that those within its confines want to get out, whilst those without endeavour to get in.”

“…Apples are proverbially so health-giving that no doctors can be expected to do anything but eat them themselves and discourage that practice in others….”

“God made the first Christmas, and man has ever since been busy spoiling it.”

This is one of the best reads outside Elizabeth David.