When we moved house a little over a year ago I pruned my collection of cookbooks to fit our new, reduced living space. I kept sixty books that were dear to me and disbursed the rest among my children and the closest charity shop. I also declared a moratorium on buying new titles and I have stuck to it. I already have a sheaf of untried recipes clipped from weekend newspapers, so the last thing I need is another cookery book. But today I am tempted.
The Great Dixter Cookbook has just been published and, though I imagine its recipes are nothing out of the ordinary, many of them are from the personal collection of Christopher Lloyd, a man as famous for his generous hospitality and love of life as he was for his gardening books. Some cookery writers draw you into their world – Elizabeth David used to do it, Diana Henry does it now. Even if you end up putting their books aside and eating bread and jam for dinner you still come away the richer for reading them. I have cookbooks I never use but wouldn’t part with for the world: Braising Saddles – The Horsemeat Cookbook, and The White Trash Cookbook, to name but two. I also have my mother’s Cookery Illustrated and Household Management, 1937 edition because, let’s face it, you never know when you might need to prepared a Baked Arrowroot Pudding.
So will I buy the Great Dixter collection? Last night I decided to sleep on it. Today I find I’m still wide open to the possibility though the fever of impetuosity has faded. It’ll still be there tomorrow. But I hear the ghost of Christopher Lloyd whisper, ‘Oh go on. And let’s open another bottle.’