It is the late 1700’s and Biddy Leigh, the under cook for Mawton Hall is ready to start her future. Soon her beau, Jem, will be announcing their plans to marry and their dream of opening up their own tavern will begin. Yet other plans are at stake that are out of Biddy’s control. When her master marries the much younger Lady Carinna, Biddy is unwillingly selected to go on a year-long journey to Italy as her new mistresses cook. A book called, The Cooks Jewel, handed down from generation of cooks, is given to Biddy to take on her adventures to document the recipes she learns along the way.
In London Biddy encounters the handsome Kit, her Mistresses brother. He is curious about his sisters travels and asks Biddy to find out more about Carinna’s reason to suddenly pack up for Italy leaving her new husband sickly at home. Charmed by Kit’s attention Biddy starts to pay more attention to what her mistress is up to.
As the secrets unravel, and the real reason that Biddy has been requested to come on this journey unfold, Biddy finds herself in a place that is both frightening and invigorating. As her desire to return back tot he home she once knew starts to fade, a new future appears to be on the horizon. If only Biddy has the courage to take the steps to make it happen.
An Unrivaled Chocolate Ice Cream
Take a pint of good cream, a heaped spoonful of best chocolate scraped, put it in when the cream boils and stir them well together, add the yolks of two eggs and sweeten it to your taste, let the eggs have a boil to thicken it. When cold put it in your freezing pot of pewter and plunge into a wooden pail. Pack about entirely with pounded ice and salt. When the mixture begins to firm about the sides stir it with the spaddle so that all may be equally thick and smooth and frozen.
As made for Biddy Leigh, by Signor Renzo Cellini, Easter 1773
I honestly am gushing over this surprise book. Gushing because it is brilliant and captured my attention from the start. Surprising because I chose to read this book for my interest in the recipes woven within it and was not expecting to find an excellent read as well.
The recipes were not as I expected. They are recipes for the times… the 1700’s and a cook who made do with what she had available to her, while interestingly enough, (a cure for illness is burning a piece of toast in the fire, then running hot water through the blackened toast into a cup for the person to drink. If that does not work, do it again.) I don’t see myself attempting to make any of these recipes soon.
An Appetite For Violets by debut author Martine Bailey is a book I am suggesting you do not miss out on. It is a fun historical read with snooty servants, and upper class people – but mostly… it is about Biddy and how she transforms throughout the book is delightful. As I finished I was still putting pieces together like, “Oh, that is why she ….”
Well written. Highly recommended. Biddy Leigh is a remarkably smart and witty protagonist that I found to be spot on. The author truly has her finger (or her wooden spoon) on the pulse of the 1700’s. I absolutely loved it.
Note: I looked on Amazon thinking somehow I was not privy to this amazing book and clearly many others had to be. I was surprised to see it had only 38 reviews. I think this book is a diamond in the rough and honestly, need to read this book.
Adding this post to Weekend Cooking