When I was young I thought pasta was for gluing to paper. I made lots of pasta pictures, but never ate it. My mum (who was and is a wonderful woman) couldn't cook, wasn't interested in learning and was of the opinion that you could like it, lump it or do it yourself. So one day I decided to do it myself.
Christmas Plum Pudding. Beeton's Book of Household Management.
My first experiments were packet based - I made Cod in Parsley Sauce (boil in the bag) and Creme Caramel (add milk to packet (a), open packet (b)). In an effort to broaden my repertoire I bought a second hand book from a newly opened, exotic for the time, wholefood shop in North London.
Children Receiving Aid. Paris, 1940s
The book was called Wholefood Cookery for Two. It cost 3 pence and was well used. My early experiments didn't go well - confusion over the cooking times of rice and my mistaken understanding of the quantity identifiers for garlic; 'bulb,' head,' and 'clove,' all created unpalatable results.
"Yeoman of the Mouth." Contract appointing Daniel Durant as Chef to George III.
But the promise offered by the successful cooking of eggs (Cheese and Ham Omelette) and and a dish of 'Collops of Lamb' encouraged me to persist. So I bought another second hand book (Paris Bistro Cookery) and then another to help me decipher the first two, and that was it. I was hooked.
Serving Tray and spoons. Swat Valley, 19th Century.
Then I was given a copy of Elizabeth David's Book of Mediterranean Food and I realised there were cookbooks that could be read as well as cooked from.
H C Devereux. "Russians Queuing for Food" (Detail). Oil on board 1950s
35 years later I found myself in possession of a fair old pile of stuff all relating to food. An attempt the arrange the hoard into some kind of order prompted me to muse on how I had got into this situation. In an attempt to answer the questions I had; 'am I mad?' 'what's the point?' what do I do with it all?' I began to open up and share things with other people.
Ortolan (From an old Italian collection)
Whether they were being polite or not I'll never know, but they seemed interested and shared their ideas and experiences. And suddenly, the chaos of books, manuscripts, photos, objects and junk I had gathered began to have an order and seemed a little bit more alive than it had before. And the idea for my museum was born.
Meiji Period Scroll on the preparation of fish. Japan Late 19th early 20th Century.
I hope you enjoy your visit.