Angela Clutton reflects on the latest gathering of the Cookbook Club
What do you get if you put 80 or so members of the Borough Market Cookbook Club together over a feast of their own making? Turns out the answer is not so very different from when there are 15 members at our events up in The Cookhouse: still such inspiring camaraderie over shared food experiences—but even more fun, for being so much bigger.
The Cookbook Club threw its summer ‘do’ to celebrate our first anniversary, our 500th member, and all the general love and goodwill the Club engenders. To give as many members as possible the opportunity to join in, the Cookbook Club’s embrace was widened by opening up Market Hall, with Borough Market managing director Darren Henaghan leading the welcome to a wonderful mix of members. Some who had been before, but many were there for their first taste of the Cookbook Club.
We chose two books by one author for the event: Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book and Vegetable Book. In the build-up, as members were planning what dish to cook and bring along, it was fascinating to realise that across the membership there were some who’d never heard of Jane Grigson before—but were falling fast for her recipes—and then those for whom she has long been a faithful kitchen companion.
A considerable influence
For me she is right up there as one of the very best food writers. She’s a considerable influence for my work and many other modern food writers, decades on from making her mark on the nation’s cooking in the sixties and seventies.
How the members excelled in bringing her recipes to share! All arranged on a table that ran the length of Market Hall—with the most beautiful fruit and veg themed ‘floral’ arrangement by The Gated Garden running down its middle—it was like the best-ever street party.
So many people and so many dishes meant we couldn’t possibly have each member talk about their experiences of cooking what they brought (and anyway, that is best saved for the intimacy of our smaller events—although a few members did take to the microphone to tell their tales of success, mixed with occasional kitchen consternation).
Instead, we heard from Borough Wines about food and wine matching and had the opportunity to thank them for their ongoing support of the Cookbook Club; Lucy May Walker entertained us through the evening with her busking; and a trustee of the Jane Grigson Trust talked to us in depth about her work and impact.
Not just any Jane Grigson Trust trustee—an extra delight was that it was lovely Felicity Cloake, whose A to Z of Eating was our Cookbook Club book back in May, of course. I don’t think Felicity will mind me revealing that she sampled pretty much every dish on the feasting table—and who can blame her? The overall favourite dishes of the night are too many to name, but I am going to pick out here the pickled cucumber mousse (simultaneously retro and modern), all the tomato tarts, apple croustade, watermelon sorbet and the gooseberry meringue tart.
In some ways, it was a very different Cookbook Club event—but in the most important ways, not that different at all. Members left with hugs and voiced hopes that maybe we’ll do one of these bigger events again. We just might.
26th September: River Cottage Much More Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
14th October The Prawn Cocktail Years by Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham
11th November: Brindisa by Monika Linton