My cooking is legendary. Maybe that’s not the right word, though there are any number of legends that end in disaster. More accurately, perhaps, I am a notorious cook.

I have just read Jane Gardam’s collection of stories ‘The People on Privilege Hill’ (2007) and want to photocopy one of the pages and distribute it to all my culinary detractors.

Jane Gardam is comfort reading, the nursery food of the mind. Her stories are all hedgerows and Dorset and Kent and people who fill bathtubs with orchids in preparation for weddings. People with privilege even if they don’t all literally live on Privilege Hill.

In the story that gives the collection its name, a number of octogenarians are dining, and Virginia Woolf is remembered in the context of the excellent stew. An old woman – who was at Oxford – cautions that Woolf herself could not have served them a stew as good as this, nor the one she described in ‘To The Lighthouse’ (1927).

‘She wasn’t much of a cook … But you don’t expect it, when people have inner lives’ (p. 17).

See! Don’t expect good cooking! I get waylaid. I become distracted. I do not mean to burn boiled eggs or two-minute noodles. My mind is simply elsewhere cooking up a story.

Am I little smug, thinking I can liken myself to Virginia Woolf? Of course I am! Even if it is only to her putatively bad cooking abilities.

Interestingly, while looking up the stew that precipitated the fictional conversation, I found the recipe for the famous meal. So I too can have a go at a ‘To The Lighthouse’ daube? Wish me luck.






The Image is of a seventeenth century painting titled, Kitchen Scene, and depicts a ‘laughing chef.’ Yes, it’s all fun and games in the kitchen.


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