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Manual The Barbara Pym Cookbook

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The trick is keeping overweening ambition at bay. The trick is remembering that, for the duration of the meal, you have a kind of control over others. And so the question really becomes: What does one do with absolute power?

The Stanford Prison Experiment is always looming on the horizon. Benignity goes against nature. I have been wrestling mightily lately. The temptation: salmon mousse. And like many Barbara Pym fans, I have never dared cook from it. While minute meal descriptions are one of the great pleasures of the Pym oeuvre, many of the novels take place during the tyranny of postwar rationing. An Anna Karenina— themed feast, people can get into. Some Tame Gazelle? Maybe not so much. I have gone so far as to purchase the gelatin; I told myself it was for a hypothetical panna cotta.

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Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. This was a fun little read for Pym fans, but there's absolutely not one recipe in this that I would consider making. I've always heard not to expect much from English food, but really, Tuna Mousse, boiled meats, steamed puddings? Bland, over cooked food seemed to be a theme.

So, no thanks on the recipes. However, lots of fun quotes from her books. View all 4 comments. Nov 11, Regina added it. I had the clear sense that Barbara Pym's sister wrote this book to eke more money out of her sister's fame. It's true that B Pym included food and meals in her books and I was happy to finally find a recipe for "cauliflower cheese" but I think Barbara would have found the idea of someone writing this book hilarious.

There is a Barbara Pym cookbook?!? View 1 comment. Oct 26, Sammy rated it really liked it Shelves: cooking , barbara-pym.


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To recap: Barbara Pym published six novels between and , social comedies or "high comedies" set in the world of vicars, spinsters, anthropologists, and gossips of all flavours. Her "Austen-meets-Wodehouse" vibe sold comfortably well, although she couldn't leave her day job working on indexes and proofreading for anthropological journals. This smart, sensible, occasionally silly woman who had served in WWII became highly regarded for her precise character insights, her quiet wit, and that almost-Shakespearean ability to present you with one, seemingly undeniable, point-of-view, only to throw three alternate points-of-view in to the mix, destabilising all of her characters and creating a well-rounded world - even if that world often seems to encompass such a narrow part of society.

Alas, between and , publishers would not have a bar of her.

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The Barbara Pym Cookbook by Hilary Pym, Honor Wyatt |, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

In the '60s, as Pym lamented in her letters, publishers wanted "men and Americans". Modernity had arrived. Pym finished her work, suffered some health scares, and retired with her sister to the country to await the day when she would be rediscovered. Which turned out to be a winter's day in January , when her champions promoted her to the world - via the Times Literary Supplement - and Pym was able to pull out her unpublished novels from her desk drawer, and begin again.

Booker Prize-nominated in , Pym's triumph was cut tragically short when she died in January from cancer.

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But the public appetite had grown, on both sides of the Atlantic, and Pym's sister Hilary and good friend and author Hazel Holt mother of Tom Holt set about shoring up her legacy. They published her remaining novels there are 12 in total , an autobiography, a biography, and an additional collection of shorter and unfinished works. Finally, to round out the set, is this Cookbook.

A Barbara Pym Cookbook. It's an amusing idea that makes no sense at first, and then a heckuva lot of sense, and then rather no sense again. And I enjoy it for all those reasons. This is a thoroughly unnecessary addition to the collection. A merry attempt to make a bit more money off the Pym narrative and continue to spread her name. But more seriously, food plays such a substantial role in the novels.

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It's psychology, culture, religion, love, and food: not necessarily in that order. This volume collects mentions of food from throughout the 12 novels, and provides simple recipes and commentary to each. The recipes are very simple. Moreso, wherever possible, they focus only on the immediate item being made.

So a pie or tart will simply instruct you to use "shortcrust pastry" rather than how to make it - meaning that a recipe for gooseberry pie essentially instructs you to put the gooseberries into the pastry and then cook it! But this is frankly fine because it's unlikely many people would make the recipes for anything other than historical interest anyway. What delights about Pym's world is its thoroughly English post-war ration-era mentality.

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It's astonishing to think that the world into which my parents were born was still a time when one enjoyed the fruits that existed in one's own locality, lived off a limited range of vegetables and types of meat except on special occasions, and couldn't rely on the supermarket to have an endless variety of ready-made food, spices, and so on. The joy of reading Pym, for my generation, is a twin joy: on the one hand, an astonishing even absurd tale of human progress that renders so far removed from ; on the other hand, a comforting realisation that, in many ways, we as people haven't changed at all.

Still, this is a book full of cauliflower cheese, tuna mousse, and other such delights. Often starchy and stodgy, an everyday item chosen for its filling nature and its easy availability, with something flavoursome to cover up the repetitive nature of the meal. Those people who lament that the past was somehow better than today often evoke phrases like "traditional" and "simple". But they forget that things are only traditional because they're old, and were only simple because people couldn't afford or access anything else.

Go back to and ask people in Britain if they'd rather have access to 40 fruits than 3, or an encyclopedia and telephone in their pocket as opposed to waiting hours for a bus that may not come, or the ability to stream millions of music tracks rather than keep their few dozen vinyl discs. The future wins every time. These main meals and desserts, so often simplistic and then occasionally utterly extravagant for those special occasions, were the backbone of a culture, but ultimately by custom and technological limits, not choice. It's actually a cuisine I'm still very fond of - I assume it's somehow locked into my bones through cultural heritage - but a sensible cook would be better off finding an actual recipe online, rather than using the simple guides here!

Yet, when all is said and done, this is a marvellous treat. A sort of dessert amuse-bouche to accompany the broader Pym banquet. For me, it's special as a physical book in a way that would be lacking in e-book form. This book is thoroughly unnecessary, but I cherish the idea of devoted Pymheads in taking the book home, poring over the recipes, remembering their favourite moments, perhaps in some cases recalling back to their own youth. For me this is a little heartwarming treasure to pull out on occasion. Pym mania died down after the s, although is kept alive by a devoted Barbara Pym society and a certain type of younger person keen to rediscover humanist writers of the 20th century.

I don't ever think her time will come around again on such a broad scale, but it's delightful to think that this book will continue to warm the hearts of a select few for many years to come. Love the book!!


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  • Wonderful stories, enjoyed the excerpts.