I've been meaning to write about Olof Wijk's 'Eat at Pleasure Drink by Measure' for some time now. This is another long forgotten book, which, like yesterday's 'Clubland Cooking', you can buy online for a pittance. If I had to choose a Greasy Spoon Top Ten, it's very possible that 'Eat at Pleasure Drink by Measure' would cut the mustard. I cannot stress how much I love this book. It's a bedside companion, like having a civilised old friend at your elbow.
Olof Wijk was a director of the now long defunct Jermyn Street wine merchant, Christopher's, and was "born in Gothenburg of Swedish parents. Educated at Harrow and Sandhurst, he assumed British nationality on joining the 4th Queen's Own Hussars in India."
Elizabeth David by Madame Hassia, National Portrait Gallery, London
in 1960 he came up with the inspired idea of sending out food and wine leaflets to his clients. Elizabeth David would write the recipes, and Olof would contribute his own thoughts on wine. The result was a charming semi-autobiographical seasonal anthology (including delightful wood-cuts by Yvonne Skargon in the manner of Thomas Bewick, poetry and historical quotations), which Constable re-published in book form in 1970, and like so many other books of this period it's a triumph of production with lovely soft creamy yellow paper and distinguished typography.
I know that if I had met Mr Wijk I would have liked him very much indeed. An Officer and Gentleman of the old school, he comes across as a rather lovely old boy, and his writing is full of humanity and civilised anecdotes. His love of wine, food, classical music and the finer things in life shines out. And he was a terrific writer too- almost Hemingway-esque at times, probably without even realising it. Here's Olof on how to host a dinner during the month of March:
All I ask is that it be easy to do. And I can't spend all day cooking. And it must look sensational. And taste exquisite. And I refuse to be doing something messy in the kitchen while everyone else is drinking. And it has got to be original- one is so sick of Chicken à la Creme and the indomitable mousse. And what with everyone dieting and George Brown going on so, and Lent upon us, one is ridden with guilt if it is at all rich and expensive. I doubt if there is a complete answer.
I realise it's not summer yet, but here's Elizabeth David's recipe for Fresh Figs with Orange Juice, taken from 'Eat at Pleasure, Drink by Measure'. It sounds refreshing and original:
Elizabeth David's Fresh Figs with Orange Juice
Allow two firm, very slightly under-ripe purple or green figs per person. Cut the stalks from the figs but do not peel them. Quarter them, put them in a bowl, and over them pour juice, freshly squeezed, of one large or two small oranges for eight figs. No sugar is necessary, but the fruit should be prepared an hour or so before it is to be eaten.
Presented in a perfectly plain white china salad bowl, or in individual clear glass wine goblets, this fig salad is one of the most beautiful as well as one of the most exquisite of all fresh fruit dishes
But before we get too carried away with all this, while browsing my much-thumbed copy this morning I discovered a pencilled annotation in my grandmother's spidery hand writing against Olof's entry for Mousse de Jambon: NO GOOD AT ALL.