Two of a kind: Angela and Eva

Categories: Reflections and opinions

Angela, the host of The Borough Market Cookbook Club, and Eva, one of its members

Interviews: Ellie Costigan
Image: Orlando Gili

Eva on Angela
I had no idea what to expect when I first went to Borough Market’s Cookhouse for a session of the Cookbook Club, where members gather every month to share dishes that each of them have prepared from the same cookbook. But as soon as I got there, Angela made me feel welcome. She’s just very friendly!

For one of our most memorable sessions, I made something that was meant to be very simple—a pudding— but it caused me so much pain by refusing to set. I ended up making it into a semifreddo and serving it half frozen. Someone else arrived with the same dessert and it was all beautiful and glossy, perfectly set. But it turned out she’d cheated by adding some gelatine, which was not in the recipe! That was such a good experience—not that I wish failure on anyone, but it’s so much more interesting when people come and share their war stories than it is when everything’s perfect. We all really embrace it. Also, Angela makes a big thing about there being no judgement; the point of the club is to share your experiences, good or bad, and she very consciously makes it that way.

Without Angela, we’re just a group of strangers in a room with some food. We need her to take charge. One of the problems—a nice problem—is that after the first round of food comes out, everyone’s having some Borough wine, enjoying a chat, eating far too much, and Angela has to cajole us to shut up and gather round again for the next set of dishes. She does such a good job, making sure everyone gets to have a say about their dish. She also manages to be enthusiastic about every dish, regardless of how they’ve turned out.

The Borough Market Cookbook Club helps to undermine London’s reputation for being a lonely place. Anyone can be a member, and it really feels like you’re part of the community of the Market. It’s the same with the work I do volunteering for Plan Zheroes, the charity that collects surplus food from the Market’s traders. The volunteers are from all walks of life, but you get to know and understand each other. Both Plan Zheroes and Cookbook Club are very much about connecting.

Angela and Eva

Angela on Eva
The first time I met Eva, she seemed quietly confident. She wasn’t nervous or precious about presenting her dishes. Not cocky, either, just very comfortable. I was very impressed by that.

One of the very lovely things about the Cookbook Club has been building relationships with people. Because of the intimate nature of the event, it feels like you’ve made a real connection and you get to build a rapport quite quickly, so while I don’t know Eva massively well, I do count her as a friend. That’s what the club—that sharing of food and experience—manages to achieve.

It’s helped by the book’s writer not being here—people can be really honest. Rather than being about the book, the club is really all about the members, their connection with food and with the Market, and that’s why it works. The fact that we’re doing it here, in the embrace of the Market, makes all the difference. There’s something about the warm spirit of the place that makes you feel supported, even if something has gone horribly wrong in the cooking process!

I’m always glad when I know Eva is coming to Cookbook Club. She likes to show the build-up, sharing little videos on social media of her on a Saturday morning, frying up scotch eggs or roasting peppers in her pyjamas at home. Some people don’t want to share what’s happening because they don’t know what people will think of it, but it’s lovely that Eva does.

One of the things that really gets me is that on the morning of a Cookbook Club event there are a dozen people all around town putting their time and effort into cooking food for a bunch of strangers. We all barely have time to cook for the people we love, so I think making space in your life for that is quite extraordinary.