Cooking the Books

First, I’d like to reply to a question several readers have put to me: how can I possibly be without a publisher? The quick answer is, very easily. But let me explain. Publishing houses are no longer gentlemanly outfits where authors are cherished even in their dotage. Publishing is now big business, answerable to shareholders. When a writer is unprofitable she has to go.

‘Well,’ you may say, ‘I buy your books.’  Indeed, and for this I thank you, truly. However I also know that people often buy my books and then pass them around their friends, which may, in the long run, gain me a few new fans, but quite often doesn’t. I pass books around myself. It’s a nice thing to do. It just doesn’t help the author’s bottom line. Many of my readers are also great library users. That too is good. Long live libraries! Sadly, they don’t figure in the publisher’s accountants’ world view.

I hope that clarifies my current situation. And let’s look on the bright side. I may yet find a new publishing home.

Having missed my bus by a whisker and with half an hour to wait for the next one, I dropped by a bookshop this week. I thought I might find a cookery book for a certain person’s Christmas present. The cookery section was a place I hadn’t visited lately and in my absence cookery books seem to have become works of art, lavish and heavy. A bit lightweight in the recipe department though. Not that recipes are the be-all. Personally I love a cook book that tells me a few stories as well. It’s one of the reasons I like Diana Henry’s books. Also her recipes actually work. Her Roast Figs, Sugar Snow might well be my desert island cookery book.

But the books I leafed through last Thursday were all hat and no cattle. I don’t know about you, but I can live without a ribbon bookmark. My own kitchen bookshelf looks more ‘bin end’ than ‘coffee table.’ There is a yellowing French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David which I no longer use but keep for sentimental reasons because page 491 is stained with the red wine my first husband knocked over when he was cooking a saddle of hare in 1972. There is also my second husband’s copy of The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, liberally encrusted with egg, mustard and honey from his many, happy iterations of fried rabbit. And then my inheritance. My mother’s folder of thrifty recipes jotted down or clipped from magazines and her treasured, dog-eared Delia bible. She rated Delia Smith, a no nonsense cook after her own heart.

Did I buy anything on Thursday? I did. I bought a Jamie Oliver on the grounds that it contained at least five recipes that I might test (without splattering) before I wrap it in Christmas paper. More than that I cannot say because my daughters occasionally read my blog.



  1. Pauline Sharpe on November 21, 2018 at 11:38 am

    I’m desperately trying to discover how you know so much about Norfolk air bases, the aircraft flown from them in the 1950s and how one might drive from Texas to Maine by car. I’m “doing” Future Homemakers of America and The Early Birds for my book group and, although I loved your autobiography, I’m no nearer working out how you obtained such intimate knowledge of America. I know I shall be asked! We are all rapidly becoming Laurie Graham groupies I may add and at least one member has read everything you’ve ever written.

    Not sure how your website works or whether you’ll even see this plea for info, but it’s worth a try.

  2. elizabeth shelton on November 23, 2018 at 5:44 am

    Always BUY your books, because I read them over and over and over……………again!!!!!

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